Plant-based diets may be beneficial, but only if you avoid certain foods

It's no secret that eating a plant-based diet can have beneficial heart health effects for some people, but there's a catch. A new study warns that these diets are only potentially helpful for people who avoid certain foods — the wrong kind of plant-based diet may eradicate the 'heart-healthy' aspect of it, making it just as unhealthy as the average animal-based diet.

Past research has found that eating a plant-based diet — or drastically reduced amounts of animal products — may help protect heart health. These diets tend to focus on healthy fats, grains, nuts, leafy greens, fruit, and vegetables. However, it is possible to eat an unhealthy plant-based diet, which eliminates the benefits.

According to a new study presented by the American College of Cardiology, regularly eating things like refined grains, sugary foods, and drinking fruit juice may spoil the benefits of a plant-based diet. These people weren't found to have any heart health benefits compared to people who eat animal products.

The key finding is that simply following a plant-based diet isn't enough — you have to follow a healthy plant-based diet, which may not be as obvious to some as it seems. The results are based on tracking more than 2,000 adults over a 10-year period.

A healthy plant-based diet is described as one that includes larger amounts of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, oils, tea and/or coffee, and legumes. In comparison, an unhealthy plant-based diet is higher in things like fruit juice, sugary drinks, potatoes, refined grains, and sweet treats. The people who followed the first diet were found to experience 'significant' heart benefits over participants who followed the latter plant-based diet.