Want A Long Life With A Healthy Heart? Here’s What To Eat (And What Not To)

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By now, most people are aware that one of the biggest factors contributing to — or harming — your heart’s health is what you put in your mouth. Whether it’s what you drink, what you eat, or supplements or medications you take, diet is second only to exercise in ways we can influence our risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) and other cardiovascular conditions. (The other major factor — genetics and family history — is pretty much out of our hands.)

But knowing the fact that what we eat, drink and take can affect our cardiovascular health and actually knowing accurate information on WHAT to eat, drink, and take are very different things — and misconceptions are everywhere for that second one. That led a group of cardiologists and other physicians to publish a review of the evidence on what does and doesn’t reduce cardiovascular risks and contribute to heart health.

The review, appearing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, acknowledges from the start that people are flooded with “advice” constantly — even though much of it is wrong or possibly even harmful.

“Each year patients are bombarded with the publication of new ‘miracle’ diet books that claim to promote health, effect weight loss and reduce disease risks,” the authors wrote. “Although the scientific evidence base for some of these diets is limited, there are several dietary patterns that have clearly been demonstrated to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease.”

The most important takeaway? Unfortunately, popping this or that vitamin or mineral simply can’t replace the benefits of good old fashioned real food in a healthy diet.

In this Nov. 12, 2009 file photo, a vendor hands over a sample of produce to a potential customer at the historic Pike Place Market in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

“Evidence-based healthy dietary patterns are high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts in moderation, although some may include limited quantities of lean meats (including poultry and seafood), low-fat dairy products, and liquid vegetable oils,” the authors wrote. “These dietary patterns are also low in saturated, trans, and solid fats; sodium; added sugars; and refined grains.”

The authors recommend three main healthy dietary patterns supported by scientific evidence: the Healthy U.S.-style Eating Pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean-style Eating Pattern, and the Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. Another common dietary pattern is named for the region of the country where it’s most popular — the Southern diet pattern. This diet, which is high in added fats, fried food, eggs, organ and processed meats and sugar-sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, contributes to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

The following guidelines pretty much cover the basics:

  • Frequently eat green leafy vegetables, protein from plant sources and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit your dietary cholesterol (i.e., meats).
  • Consume canola oil, sunflower oil, olive oil and nuts in moderation.
  • Avoid the Southern dietary pattern, coconut oil, palm oil, antioxidant supplements and — only if you are sensitive or allergic — foods containing gluten. (There’s no benefit to avoiding gluten if you don’t have celiac disease, an allergy or a documented sensitivity.)

So what about all the misconceptions that spring from nutritional advice? The authors provide several succinct summaries that cover the most common questions and controversies people might encounter.

Eggs and dietary cholesterol: Although the media widely reported findings that eating foods high in cholesterol doesn’t appear to increase blood cholesterol, many of the stories neglected to report the recommendation to “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible” because it’s only at higher intakes of cholesterol that it has less effect on blood cholesterol. At lower intake levels, cholesterol in the blood does increase alongside cholesterol in the diet, though saturated and trans fats affect blood cholesterol the most. Therefore, “it remains prudent to advise patients to significantly limit intake of dietary cholesterol in the form of eggs or any high-cholesterol foods to as little as possible,” they wrote.

Vegetables oils: The type of fat in different vegetable oils varies greatly, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil are particularly high in saturated fats while canola, olive and sunflower oils are high in (healthier) monounsaturated fats. The bottom line is that oils that are solid at room temperature — such as coconut oil and palm oil — increase risk for heart disease. The healthiest oil to use is olive oil (followed by other liquid oils).

Berries, brightly colored vegetables and antioxidants: While research has shown the benefits of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, the same benefits haven’t been seen in antioxidant supplements. In fact, some research shows harms. The reason is a physiological process (“hormesis”) in which a “substance is beneficial at low doses but harmful at higher doses.” So eat your fruits and veggies, but skip the supplements.

Nuts: Nuts are a great way to get plant-based protein and mostly contain unsaturated fats, but it’s all about portion control: don’t go nuts on nuts.

Juicing: As the authors note, juicing “has become very popular, with no end of technologies to prepare the elixirs of health.” While it is a convenient way to get your fruit and vegetable intake, it tends to concentrate calories so that you consume more, especially if you add sugar or honey to it. Eating whole fruits and vegetables is best — but if you’re not getting enough of these at all, juicing isn’t a bad way to start if done in moderation.

Gluten: About 1% to 2% of the U.S. population have celiac disease and should obviously avoid gluten, as should those with a wheat allergy and the approximately 6% or so with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. But for the rest of you, “there is no evidence that avoidance of gluten by healthy individuals will result in weight loss or that gluten promotes weight gain.”

This article was sourced from http://theweekndnews.com