Whole Plant Foods and Coronary Heart Disease

  • Mark L. Dreher
Part of the Nutrition and Health book series (NH)


Prospective cohort studies consistently show that diets with higher intakes of whole and minimally processed plant foods (whole plant foods) including whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and seeds are associated with reduced coronary heart disease (CHD) risk compared to lower intake. Heart healthier versions of whole plant foods are higher in dietary fiber, phytosterols, healthy fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs), and nutrients (e.g., vitamins E and C, potassium and folate), phytochemicals (carotenoids, flavonoids and phytosterols) and lower in energy density, glycemic index and glycemic load. The risk of CHD incidence or mortality is significantly reduced with the intake of ≥3 servings/day of whole-grains (especially oats and barley), ≥5 servings (400 g)/day of fruits and vegetables, ≥4 weekly servings (130–150 g cooked) of legumes (both non-soy and/or soy products), and ≥5 servings/week of nuts and seeds. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) generally support the beneficial effects of healthy whole plant based foods on CHD risk biomarkers including lowering serum lipids and blood pressure, improving glucose and insulin metabolism, improving endothelial function, alleviating oxidative stress and inflammation and reducing risk of weight gain compared to their refined counterparts. Only a small fraction of the US population meets the recommended intake levels for whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and 70% exceed recommended refined grain intake. Approximately 45% of CHD deaths in the US are associated with suboptimal low dietary intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole-grains, and seafood omega-3 PUFAs, and higher intake of red and processed meats, sugar sweetened beverages, and sodium.


Coronary heart disease Whole-grains Fruit Vegetables Legumes Nuts Seeds Low density lipoprotein-cholesterol High density lipoprotein-cholesterol Triglycerides C-reactive protein 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark L. Dreher
    • 1
  1. 1.Nutrition Science SolutionsWimberleyUSA

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