One of the most frequent questions cardiologist, Nicole Harkin M.D. is asked is what is the best diet for heart health since there is so much misinformation out there. From the low fat diet culture of the 90s to emerging fads like green juicing and keto, it’s hard to know who to trust and what to do.
The food choices one makes can be a game changer to either causing or reversing heart disease. Research studies are now demonstrating that a nutrient-poor diet is responsible for causing 1 in 5 deaths worldwide every year. You simply cannot out-run or out-meditate an unhealthful diet. The food choices we make now matter; it can either accelerate the development of heart disease ten-fold or make sure heart problems are never a part of our future.
Let’s explore the science behind foods which fuel our bodies to live longer, be healthier, and feel better.
Eat more plants
There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence which demonstrates that eating more plants reduces our risk of heart attack and stroke (not to mention most other chronic diseases). Everyone can stand to increase their intake of plants because they contain tons of fiber (vital for our gut health and blood sugar control) as well as vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, polyphenols, and antioxidants. You just can’t get these vital elements which control every cell function from any other resource except for plants.
Research is now confirming what our ancestors centuries ago have been preaching: choose predominantly foods rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds with sparing consumption of ancient whole grains.
More specifically, the foods that have been demonstrated to be particularly heart healthy include leafy green vegetables, antioxidant rich berries, nuts, and plant-based protein sources such as legumes, beans, and non-genetically modified soy-based products.
What to cut out of your diet
Research is now clearly demonstrating that processed junk food, refined grains, and sugar sweetened beverages are totally devoid of things that nourish our body (like fiber). They contain tons of poisonous toxins our body cannot easily process including trans fats, sugar, pesticides and heavy metals. Working toward reducing these things in our diet is uncontroversially important. It’s also probably the hardest thing to eliminate because they are designed to taste good (or in food industry parlance, “highly palatable”) and everywhere.
Intake of processed meats (ie hamburgers, hotdogs, deli meats) has consistently demonstrated to increase the risk of heart disease quite robustly, while the intake of unprocessed red meat, eggs, and dairy products show a similar, but less profound, association with causing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart cardiovascular disease. Importantly, replacing red meat with plant-based fresh food sources but NOT refined carbohydrates is associated with dramatically lowering the risk of heart disease. Beyond the fact that animal products tend to be high in saturated fat (which increases LDL cholesterol) and sodium, they also contain other bioactive molecules that appear to be detrimental to our health including heme iron, nitrates, and carnitine (which gets converted to TMAO, a metabolite strongly linked to increased risk for heart disease).
So how should I move towards a heart-healthy diet?
Learn more about integrative cardiologist Dr. Nicole Harkin M.D. at http://www.wholeheartcardiology.com. For more tips on heart healthy eating, and other hot heart health topics, check out Dr. Harkin’s blogs.
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