Diet doesn’t have to be a four-letter word.
Most of the time, a diet implies weight loss and comes loaded with restrictions and perhaps even plans that aren’t very healthy. But new recommendations released recently by a team of health experts refer to diet with a different goal in mind: preventing heart disease and stroke.
“We see a lot about diets on the internet, with everyone commenting about which ones are good for you, but tell me, good for what?” said Dr. Amit Khera, one of the authors of the 2019 Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. “If it’s weight loss, sure, some of these diets can help you lose weight, but that does not mean they’re heart-healthy.”
Developed by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, the new guidelines emphasize that a healthy, nutritious diet can play a tremendous role in lowering risk for heart attack and stroke. Such a diet also can help in “reducing or reversing” obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure—all considered risk factors for heart disease.
Specifically, the recommendations advise high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and “lean vegetable or animal protein (preferably fish).” Plant-based and Mediterranean diets, which embrace this type of pattern, are singled out in the guidelines.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t actually one specific diet but a reflection of the eating habits common in the numerous countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It shares many characteristics with the diet known as DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, frequently prescribed to help lower blood pressure.
Both plans emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. But the Mediterranean diet includes regular use of olive oil, low to moderate intake of fish and poultry, and rare consumption of red meat and dairy products. The DASH diet allows more protein sources from low-fat dairy and cuts of meat and poultry.
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