5 Science-Backed Reasons Plant Proteins are Better for Your Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. If you’re trying to reduce your risk for heart disease, eating more plant proteins is one way to do so. 

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Here are five evidence-based reasons plant proteins are better for your heart than animal proteins and a few easy ways to get more plant-proteins in your diet:

1. Plant proteins are naturally cholesterol-free and saturated fat-free

Cholesterol and saturated fats are mainly found in animal protein sources so most plant protein sources including GN rice and pea proteins are naturally free from both. 

Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs so it doesn't need to be consumed from foods. Any extraneous cholesterol consumed from animal protein sources is more cholesterol that your body needs to eliminate elsewise you increase your risk of having high cholesterol which can lead to a further increased risk of heart attacks and heart disease. 

Even whey protein (which comes from cow milk) contains cholesterol, albeit in small amounts. 

2. Plant proteins are naturally rich in dietary fiber

One way the body eliminates excess cholesterol, thus protecting the heart, is with dietary fiber. Fiber binds to a variety of fat molecules and are excreted along with the fiber, thus keeping them from plugging up delicate blood vessels. 

Animal proteins contain zero fiber but plant proteins like beans, legumes, seeds and whole grains in particular are rich sources of dietary fiber. While plant protein powders are derived from sources like peas and rice, most but not all fiber is removed during the protein concentration process. For example, 1 scoop of rice protein still provides 2 grams of dietary fiber. 

3. Plant proteins are uniquely rich in protective phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are beneficial compounds found uniquely in plant-based foods only. Antioxidants are a type of phytochemical for example, which protect the body from free radicals that can otherwise lead to cancer and/or damage pivotal organs like the heart. Experts believe there are thousands of different antioxidants found in all plant foods.

While colorful fruits and vegetables are popularly known for these compounds, plant proteins (nuts, seeds, beans/legumes, and whole grains) are also sources of different antioxidants. 

Are antioxidants also found in concentrated plant protein powders? Yes they are. Both rice and pea protein have shown protective heart health benefits due to the presence of antioxidants or other phytochemicals. 

  • Scientists at Jiangxi Agricultural University in China found an anti-hypertensive effect from rice protein in hypertensive animals. This was apparently due to the presence of a unique peptide (small chain of amino acids) within the rice protein which is known to reduce high blood pressure.
  • In two additional but separate studies, rice protein appears to have cholesterol-lowering potential in animals as well. One study showed that cholesterol absorption was significantly reduced by rice protein compared to casein (a dairy-based protein) in animals fed a cholesterol free diet. Another, demonstrated rice protein can reduce triglyceride metabolism such that it leads to improved body weight and fat storage.
  • Pea protein has also been specifically found to possess antioxidant, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory properties along with cholesterol lowering potential.

4. Plant proteins are rich in essential heart-supportive vitamins and minerals

Potassium, calcium, magnesium, folate, and fiber are just some of the vitamins and minerals that directly support the function of the heart and it's health. For example, potassium helps to support the nerves needed to regular the heartbeat. Calcium triggers contracts of the heartbeat along with potassium and magnesium. 

Beans, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts are naturally rich sources of these nutrients. So when you eat an array of plant proteins you can be sure that you are supporting your heart's health. 

 5. Studies have shown that plant proteins are linked to heart health

 A review study from 2015 specifically looked at how plant versus animal proteins affected the risk for heart disease. While further research is needed, the data favored the idea that cardiovascular risk could be reduced by including more plant proteins instead of processed animal proteins. 

In another study of over 37,000 American participants, those who ate the most plant protein were 29% less likely to die from heart disease. Additionally, replacing even one serving per day of red or processed meat with plant proteins was linked to a 47% decreased risk of heart disease in men. 

Easy Ideas for Eating More Plant Proteins

  • Use plant protein powders instead of animal-based whey for shakes or smoothies
  • Add beans or lentils into your meat-based chili 
  • Replace part of your ground beef with soy or other plant-based crumbles in any ground beef recipes
  • Have nuts instead of cheese for a snack
  • Use pea protein powder instead of eggs for baked goods
  • Dip your veggies in chickpea hummus instead of cheese-based dips

Bottom Line

While there are a plethora of heart health benefits with a balanced vegan diet, you don't need to go full vegan in order to reap some benefits. Even a single daily swap of processed red meat with plant protein can lead to a significant reduction in heart disease risk especially in men. Reach for whole plant protein options first and foremost though concentrated plant protein powders are easy and convenient options that count too. 


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