When it comes to a healthy diet, one thing we always hear is to eat your veggies. In fact, a recent study we told you about finds switching to a more plant-based diet could help you live 13 years longer. But new research that analyzes the diets of close to 400-thousand adults in the U.K. raises some questions by claiming that eating veggies, especially cooked ones, doesn’t lower your risk of heart disease over time.
The study finds eating raw vegetables can protect against heart disease, but cooked veggies don’t. Researchers conclude that any benefits go away when lifestyle factors, like physical activity, education level, smoking, drinking, red and processed meat consumption, are considered. “Our large study did not find evidence for a protective effect of vegetable intake on the occurrence of cardiovascular disease (CVD),” explains study author and epidemiologist Qi Feng.
But these findings challenge previous research that suggests eating more veggies is linked to a lower risk of CVD, which can lead to heart attacks, stroke and death. And critics warn veggie haters not to start celebrating just yet. Some experts in the U.K. and the U.S. disagree with the study’s conclusion, like Naveed Sattar, a professor of cardiovascular and metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He explains that there’s good evidence that eating high fiber foods, like vegetables, can help lower weight and improve risk factors known to cause heart disease.
- One issue critics have with the new study is the small amount of veggies people in it were eating. They ate an average of five tablespoons a day, which is only about a third of a cup. Compare that to U.S. dietary guidelines that recommend adults eat two to three cups a day, which is about 48 tablespoons.
- Gunter Kuhnle, a professor of nutrition at the University of Reading, brings up a good point about the impact of alternate food choices. “People who don’t eat vegetables need to eat something else,” he explains. “And when estimating the health effect of eating vegetables it is important to consider what they replace.”