Heart-Healthy, One Bite At A Time

March 9, 2017


The Journal of the American College of Cardiology recently published a review of trending foods and diets recommended for cardiovascular health. Don’t worry, we know that getting dinner on the table is hard enough without having to wade through dietary statistics to figure out what to cook, so here’s the digest.

  • A predominantly plant-based diet filled with fruits and leafy green vegetables is best for cardiovascular health. They have been proven to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, and are the best source of antioxidants (supplements have not consistently demonstrated benefits).
  • The current recommendation is to eat your produce in whole form and avoid juicing, unless you are otherwise unable to consume sufficient fruits and vegetables.
  • Nuts may help control cardiovascular disease risk, but because they are high in calories, they should be eaten in moderation as a substitute for empty calories.
  • For those with a gluten related disorder, a gluten-free diet well-balanced in vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts and other healthy fats may be beneficial. However, for those who do not suffer a gluten related disorder, a gluten-free diet has not been proven to have any benefit.
  • When it comes to fats, liquid vegetable oils decrease cardiovascular disease risk (particularly olive oil), increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and decreasing “bad” LDL cholesterol. In contrast, solid fats (such as coconut and palm oil) increase risk factors and should be avoided.
  • Unsaturated fats are associated with a lower risk in mortality, and trans and saturated fats are associated with an increased risk of mortality.
  • Animal proteins (in contrast to vegetable proteins) are shown to increase mortality—particularly processed red meat which is associated with cardiovascular deaths.
  • Despite the latest popular belief, one should limit dietary cholesterol such as eggs.
  • In general, a diet high in added fat, fried food, processed meat, eggs, and sugar-sweetened beverages is the most detrimental to one’s health—associated with a 56% increase in coronary heart disease, a higher mean BMI, higher rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Want to put these heart-healthy findings into practice? There’s an app for that! Foodstand helps you build healthy eating habits into your daily life through guided micro-challenges — with friends. If you want to incorporate more servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet, join the Eat 5 Servings of Fruits & Vegetables A Day Challenge. Looking to eat less meat, animal fats and eggs? Join the Eat Less Animal Products Challenge. If sugar-sweetened beverages are your achilles heel, go for the Avoid Sweetened Beverages Challenge. Or if you want to ditch fried and processed foods, challenge yourself with Eat Real Food. And don’t forget to invite your friends—building heart-healthy habits is better together.

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