Heart healthy eating is a common phrase that most people are familiar with, but what does it actually mean? The dietary guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) have changed over the years and become more refined. The diet a person consumes is not the only factor that influences CVD but it is the single most significant contributor in developing a heart disease. Long term dietary success does not come from extremely strict, unrealistic plans. The key to success is pleasure, education and sustainability. A healthy diet can reduce your risk for heart attacks, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and many more.
The new research being done is part of a broader effort to revamp the old food pyramid that most people are familiar with. There are some similarities with this new research and the information that everyone already knows, but there are also some conclusions being drawn that are more advanced. Researchers found that eating more plant based foods and avoiding refined cereals and starchy foods is still better for your heart health. One major difference from the old studies to the new ones is no strong association between full-fat dairy products and CVD. This is thought to be because the probiotics in dairy products improve the intestinal flora, which promotes growth of good bacteria. It has also been shown that chocolate, coffee and moderate alcohol consumption might not negatively affect CVD like people believed it did.
Eating from a variety of food groups not only helps you get the nutrients your body needs to prevent CVD, but it also helps with living a pleasurable and sustainable lifestyle. Choosing from different fruits, vegetables, dairy products, low fat protein sources and whole grains keeps your meals interesting while also getting the nutrients you need. It is important to limit nutrient poor foods that are high in calories but low in nutritional value. We are aiming for a sustainable lifestyle here so completely eliminating those foods is not necessary but being educated on what kind of foods are nutrient poor will help you make smarter choices when it comes to heart healthy foods.
It is important to look at a diet as a whole and understand that if you reduce the amount of a certain food, you need to choose a healthy replacement. The way one person eats might work well for them but may be unhealthy for the next person. We are fairly confident that fruits and vegetables are good for us and foods high in fat, salt and sugar are not. There’s a lot of gray area in between those that still needs to be researched to get a better understanding on how it affects your heart health.