While it’s certainly sobering that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in this country, the good news is that this is a health condition that’s largely avoidable. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is largely preventable if someone prioritizes regular exercise and a healthy diet. But “healthy diet” is so…vague. It certainly doesn’t help someone decide between having oatmeal or eggs for breakfast or whether it’s still cool to load your enchiladas up with extra cheese.
Demystifying a heart-healthy diet was the focus of a lecture by cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, at a recent health summit hosted by The Well. In his talk, Dr. Mozaffarian highlighted which foods were protective foods (aka linked to protecting against heart disease), foods to eat in moderation, and foods to minimize (because they are being detrimental for heart health). This simple framework helps make putting together a heart-healthy diet a bit easier. Keep reading for the full details.
Heart-healthy diet food map
Fruits, nuts, fish, veggies, plant oils (such as olive oil, avocado seed oil, and flaxseed oil), whole grains (such as quinoa, brown rice, barley, oats, millet, farro, sorghum), beans, and yogurt all form “protective” end of the food map; these are foods Dr. Mozaffarian says actively help prevent cardiovascular disease. “Many of these foods give rise to new life, planted in the ground under the harshest of conditions, they nurture a new plant life into being. The thousands of trace [polyphenols] and other nutrients in these foods, needed to nourish a new plant as it is born, are what our bodies need as we age,” Dr. Mozaffarian says, primarily referring to fruits, vegetables, and beans. Polyphenols benefit heart health because they increase protective HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and help lower inflammation.
Watch the video below to learn more about the benefits of olive oil:
Dr. Mozaffarian adds that plant oils and fish both contain healthy fats, and yogurt contains active probiotics, which support gut health. To his point, nutrients in food aren’t just beneficial for one part of the body; what’s good for your heart is good for the body in other ways too, such as brain health and gut health. Healthy fats, for example, are also important for brain health. And one study showed that participants who ate more than two servings of yogurt per week were 20 percent less likely to experience heart disease or strokes, showing it’s a food that benefits the gut and the heart.
Author: Emily Laurence
Source: Well And Good: This Cardiologist-Approved Food Chart Takes the Guesswork Out of a Heart-Healthy Diet