What does a heart healthy diet look like? It’s easy to see how what you eat affects your risk for cardiovascular disease, but do you know which foods are most beneficial to keep your heart healthy and by how much?
There’s a lot of information out there, but how do you sort it all out? You don’t have to because someone already did!
Thanks to Mark C. Houston, MD, MS, a cardiologist and functional medicine doctor, who collected and summarized hundreds of research studies on food and the effects of cardiovascular risk outcomes.
A heart healthy diet should include more of the following foods. These foods have been found to decrease cardiovascular risks (percentage decrease shown):
Monounsaturated Fats (e.g., olive oil) 20%
Omega 3 Fatty Acids 14%
Folate (naturally in dark green veggies) 32%
Whole grains 19%
Vitamins C and E 20-23%
Pinot noir red wine (1 4-oz glass/day) 30%
On the other hand, which foods should we avoid or exclude in a heart healthy diet? Findings have indicated that the cardiovascular risk increases by 32% with the consumption of trans fats, and high glycemic index foods, such as white flour, white sugar and white potatoes.
Last by not the least, you probably already know that the Mediterranean diet is the best among the heart healthy diets. Studies show that it decreases the cardiovascular disease risk by 37%! Sadly, the Western diet – also known as the Standard American Diet (SAD) – increases the cardiovascular disease risk by 55%! So, don’t do the SAD!
Review the above food list again. What can we conclude from this list?
A heart healthy diet is:
- not about low fat, but good fat
- not about no grains, but only whole grains
- red wine, particularly Pinot noir, is good for daily consumption, but notice it says only 4 oz/day… so no reason to OD on wine!
- dark green veggies should be a staple food.
Changing from SAD to heart healthy diet won’t happen overnight, but it’s a worthwhile process. Review the above food list and think of dishes and snacks you enjoy that contain them. Use the above food list when you plan your meals and when you make choices at the grocery store or restaurant.