Eating for a Healthy Heart

Written by: Lacy McCaig on May 18, 2017


According to the American Heart Association, Heart Disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the US. The statistics are staggering and cause for pause. Fortunately, there is power in a healthy diet. Have you ever wondered which diets can reduce the risk of developing heart disease? Heart problems are common for many Americans, eating healthy foods can help.

But what is a “healthy diet”? There are countless diets which claim to be healthy, and in a world of excess information, the truth gets fuzzy. So, what is good for you and what isn’t? Fortunately, Morrison Registered Dieticians are here to help sort through the clutter and offer up some recommendations for a heart-healthy diet.

Heart-Healthy Diets

  1. Mediterranean Diet

The plant-based, Mediterranean Diet traces its roots to traditional eating habits of people in Italy, Greece, Spain, France, and other countries in the Mediterranean region. The Mediterranean Diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. This diet encourages consuming healthy fats; olives and olive oil are the main sources of fat and replace less healthy options like butter. Salt intake is limited, and the flavor is created instead with herbs and spices. Red meat consumption is minimized to just a few times per month, while fish and poultry are the main protein sources, eaten at least two times a week. Mediterranean Diet foods are rich in antioxidants, carotenoids, monounsaturated fats, and phytochemicals, which all provide health benefits to the body.

  1. DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH Diet is used to help lower or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension can lead to heart disease and many other health issues. Similar to the Mediterranean Diet, DASH includes lots of fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. This diet also contains less sodium, sweets, added sugars, fats, and red meats. This eating plan is lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, which are unhealthy for the body in excess amounts.

The main difference between these two diet options is the emphasis on fat. The Mediterranean Diet places more focus heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which comes from foods like avocadoes, olives, olive oil and some nuts. The DASH diet contains less of these fat options. To know which is the best choice for you, be sure to consult a trusted registered dietician or your primary care provider.

7 Ways to Eat Healthy and Reduce Heart Disease

  1. Get colorful

Add a variety of fruits and vegetables to each meal. Make your plate beautiful!

  1. Go for whole grains

Opt for whole grains instead of processed white grains whenever possible.

  1. Spice and herb your way to bold flavors

Experiment seasoning with less salt. Instead, use more herbs and spices.

  1. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water every day. The typical recommendation is about 2 liters per day (64oz).

  1. Fall in love with Olive Oil

Use olive oil for cooking and baking instead of other kinds of fats.

  1. Fish and poultry are friends food

Eat less red meat. Instead choose fish or poultry at least two times a week.

  1. Get nutty

Enjoy nuts and seeds in small quantities for healthy fat.

A healthy diet is critical to heart health but don’t forget to exercise daily. Exercise is the perfect companion to either of these heart healthy diets.


Sources

University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers. (1994). The Mediterranean diet. Retrieved from http://nrmedcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Mediterranean-Diet.pdf.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (August 2015). Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf.

American Heart Association. (2017). Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2017 At-a-Glance. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/ahamah-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_491265.pdf


About the Author

Lacy McCaig
Dietetic Intern
Morrison Healthcare

Interested in learning about becoming a Dietetic Intern with Morrison Healthcare? Visit rdinternship.com for more information.