Diets – it seems that just about every month, if not weeks, brings a new diet craze. But while some types of diets can truly help one lead a healthier lifestyle, there are also those types that have no benefits whatsoever, with some even being outright harmful.
Because heart disease is one of the leading causes of death around the world, it makes sense that there are a number of different kinds of diets associated with heart health. The challenge, though, is in figuring out which diet has the right to claim that it is in fact a ‘heart-healthy one’ and one that indeed helps protect the cardiovascular system. This is the premise behind the recent review conducted by U.S. cardiologists from 12 different institutions led by Dr. Andrew Freeman of the National Jewish Health in Denver.
In a nutshell, here are the conclusions reached about the diet trends the team focused on:
Eggs and dietary cholesterol
In spite of what the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report says — that there was no evidence linking dietary cholesterol intake with a person’s cholesterol levels — the review suggests the opposite, meaning – high cholesterol foods (like eggs) do contribute to high blood cholesterol, which means it is still advisable to limit intake of such kinds of food.
Although there are several claims about the health benefits of tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil, these claims do not have substantial basis. Which means that the use of these kinds of oil (also considered as solid fats) is being discouraged because such are actually heart disease risk factors.
On the other hand, liquid vegetable oils do the opposite — they help reduce LDL-C levels (a.k.a. bad cholesterol) and raise HDL-C levels (a.k.a. good cholesterol). And the healthiest among such kinds of oil is olive oil.
The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables in their natural form. There’s no evidence to suggest that antioxidant dietary supplements provide any kind of health benefit.
Nuts can be included in a heart-healthy diet, but intake should be controlled because nuts are packed with calories and have high fat content.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables have proven benefits on heart health, and high intake is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk.
While the juices contained by fruits and vegetables are healthy, consuming only the juice means concentrated calories. And because it is easier to drink juice than eat an entire fruit or vegetable, juicing can easily lead to consumption of too much calories which is unhealthy, of course.
That said, eating of fruits and vegetables in their natural form is still best, while juicing should be reserved for situations when intake is limited. And when juicing, it is not advisable to add more sugar by sweetening the juice with honey because this will just add on to the number of calories.
Dr. Freeman said in a statement: “There is a growing consensus that a predominantly plant-based diet that emphasizes green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit is where the best improvements are seen in heart health.” That says it all.
A gluten-free diet is only beneficial to those who are gluten intolerant or are afflicted with Celiac disease. For everyone else, gluten can actually be better than gluten-free alternatives which have high processed carbohydrate content.
While there may have been limitations in the study done, for instance, the methods used to come up with the conclusions were not specified, the general consensus reached seems logical enough, especially considering that the review was done by heart experts, so to speak.
To cut a long story short, the review can be summed up as follows: A heart-healthy diet should include high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes; moderate consumption of nuts; limited consumption of lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy products, non-fat dairy products, liquid vegetable oils; and low consumption of fats (saturated, trans and solid), sodium, added sugars and refined grains. And, of course, a healthy lifestyle isn’t simply confined to a healthy diet. It should necessarily involve exercise and physical activity as well.
The study has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.