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Keep Your Ticker in Top Shape Here are the best diets for heart health

For years, scientists have been convinced that banning most dietary fats is the key to lowering cholesterol and keeping your heart healthy. But recently, experts are recognizing that some fats (including monounsaturated fats like olive oil and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids) are actually helpful in keeping your circulation and heart strong. A low-fat diet is not considered part of the heart-healthy diet today, notes Susan Ryskamp, ​​MS, RDN, a registered dietitian at Michigan Medicines Frankel Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor. We encourage plant-based fats, such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, and that people reduce their intake of saturated fats and eliminate trans fats.

Healthy eating for the heart

Although numerous diets claim to be good for your heart (and any weight loss can help reduce some of the most significant risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes and high cholesterol), the scientific evidence is more demanding on what really helps. There are only two diets that are supported in the literature as having an impact on reducing the risk of having cardiovascular problems, says Michael Goyfman, MD, director of clinical cardiology at Northwell Healths Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York.

Those are the DASH diet [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension] and the Mediterranean. They are the ones that show a lasting impact on health after more than a year. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, is popular with both nutrition experts and cardiologists. This is due to its ability to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Consider a randomized study published in The New England journal of medicine in 2018 that followed more than 7,000 participants at high cardiovascular risk. After following them up nearly five years later, participants who ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts had fewer strokes and heart attacks than those assigned to a reduced-fat diet. And because this diet has a wide variety of mouthwatering options, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts, it’s easy to follow, adds Goyfman.

The vegetarian approach

Other experts also recommend emphasizing a mostly vegetarian diet, made up of at least 50 percent plant foods, when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease. A plant-based diet can be vegan, vegetarian, or Mediterranean, explains Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, a nutritionist based in Greenlawn, New York. Plant foods are good for your heart because they are low in saturated fat and contain many phytonutrients, such as lycopene and resveratrol, which are important for heart health.

Another benefit of plant foods: They can help reduce inflammation in the body, reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer, says Stollman.

Facts about fat

Gone are the days when fat was the enemy of heart health. But not all fats are created equal, and more isn’t necessarily better, even among healthy fats. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that 30 percent of your diet comes from fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that would be 70 grams of fat per day, or about 4 tablespoons.

The AHA advises against large amounts of saturated fat (such as those from animal products), arguing that a diet high in saturated fat can raise total cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are also pro-inflammatory. It’s becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is a major cause of heart disease, as well as many cancers and possibly Alzheimer’s disease, Ryskamp says.

And while some research has concluded that there isn’t enough evidence that saturated fat directly increases heart disease risk, it may help to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, such as those from vegetables and other vegetable or monounsaturated fats.

On the list of good fats are those such as monounsaturated vegetable fats such as olive oil, canola, avocados, nuts and seeds. Oily fish, like salmon, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce triglyceride levels, slow plaque growth and help lower blood pressure. Just remember that more isn’t always better, even with healthy fats. If you eat too many nuts or go crazy on olive oil, it’s still fattening, notes Goyfman. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

Precautions for proteins

A high protein diet can be all the rage as a way to lose weight. However, that’s not always the best plan to follow, especially if you’re concerned about your heart health. Research has shown that those who consume a high protein diet may increase their risk of heart disease.

A Finnish study found that men who followed a high-protein meal plan increased their risk of developing heart failure by 33%. Those who ate the most animal-based protein had a 43 percent increased risk of heart failure compared with those who ate the least. Those who consumed high protein from dairy sources had a 49% increased risk.

That’s not to say you can never enjoy red meat, but limit your portions to one or two a week. If you’re limiting your red meat to one or two servings a week and eating very healthy the rest
Of the time, it’s okay to enjoy a burger or steak once in a while, says Goyfman. Every time
If possible, choose lean cuts of red meat that are labeled round, loin, or sirloin on the package or on a menu. And keep an eye on the portion size. A serving of red meat is about 3 ounces, the size of a computer mouse.

The choice of carbohydrates

Just like fats and proteins, some carbohydrates are much better for your heart health than others. Get the green light: Carbohydrates that are high in dietary fiber, such as whole grains, can help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of stroke. The Nurses Health Study found that women who ate two to three servings of whole grains a day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease over a 10-year period than women who ate less than a serving of whole grains. cereals per week. And a meta-analysis of seven major studies found that cardiovascular disease was 21 percent less likely to occur in people who ate two-and-a-half or more servings of whole grains per week than in those who ate fewer than two servings. . a week.

Fruits and vegetables can also play an important role in helping your heart. The more colors you have, the more nutrient-dense your diet is, Ryskamp says. With different fruits, vegetables, and legumes, you’ll get a variety of important nutrients that will ultimately benefit your health.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, The Complete Guide to Heart Health, in 2019.

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