Senior Couple Eating Meal Together In Kitchen

WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT TO AVOID HEART DISEASE?

According to the CDC, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.” Oftentimes, people don’t even realize they are at risk for or already have cardiovascular problems. 

Though heart disease is common, it can often be prevented. By working with a registered dietitian nutritionist to individualize your food plan, you can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. 

The mistake made in the past was to consider one dietary component as the enemy and the only thing we had to change. As an RDN, I evaluate each person’s diet as a whole. If specific foods need to be reduced, it is important to choose a heart healthy replacement. 

There is no indication that any single food is poison in terms of cardiovascular risk.  It is a matter of quantity and frequency of consumption.  

A modest but adequate intake of foods of animal origin is recommended.  Within this category it is important to differentiate between processed meat (i.e., salami, hot dogs, bologna (any food in a casing) and red meat.  Though both processed meats and red meats are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the risk from processed meats is greater. There is a neutral risk of developing heart disease from moderate quantities of poultry. The healthiest source of animal protein is dairy products and fish. 

Heart health also can be improved by limiting the intake of saturated fats (e.g., margarine, butter, tropical fats) and replacing it with olive oil or similar healthy fats.  

Plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts are the heart heathy replacements. These wholesome, good-quality, high fiber carbohydrates are recommended since they are associated with reduced risk.  

Food choices are the most important factor effecting health and well-being. They account for almost 50% of all cardiovascular deaths. The evidence shows that diets with higher intake of plant-based foods are associated with a markedly lower cardiovascular risk in comparison with diets predominate in animal protein. 

Diet is not just an important factor in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, it is the one that we can readily improve in our every-day life.

Suggested articles for further information:

Ricardi, Gabrielle et. al., “Dietary recommendations for prevention of atherosclerosis.” European Society of Cardiology. 18 May, 2021.