A vegan diet that includes nuts can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, according to new research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The researchers examined the effects of a vegan diet on body composition, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure among more than 12,000 people who had been followed since the age of 20.
The results were based on a modified version of the Atkins Diet, a traditional American diet that restricts carbohydrates and fats to no more than 20 grams per day, and restricts processed foods and sugar to no greater than two teaspoons per day.
“The Atkins diet is a low-calorie, high-protein diet that’s based on low-fat dairy products, low-carbohydrate grains and no meat or fish,” said senior author Elizabeth C. Dominguez, a professor of health promotion and public health at the University of Texas Health Science Center.
“The diet also does not include any animal products, eggs, seafood or dairy products.”
Dominguez said she’s seen many of her colleagues eat a vegan meal, but none are interested in trying one that included cashews.
“People don’t like nuts,” she said.
“They don’t want them.”
The study included people who did not follow the Atkins diet, who were overweight or obese and were at high risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and other conditions.
It’s the first to look at the effects on people’s cholesterol and blood pressures after they stopped eating nuts.
“Our findings suggest that reducing your intake of nuts may lower your risk for heart disease,” Domingez said.
“It’s important that people avoid eating a diet that is high in sugar, and a diet high in refined grains,” she added.
Sugar, a type of carbohydrate found in fruits and vegetables, is often blamed for causing weight gain and obesity.
The American Heart Association has said sugar is linked to heart disease.
“This is the first study to show that a vegan lifestyle can be as effective as traditional American diets at preventing weight gain,” said lead author Andrew P. Kuehn, a postdoctoral research associate in the department of nutrition and epidemiology at the UT Health Science Centers and the University College of London.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.