To reduce your risk of heart disease, try eating these 6 foods

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Eating fish and whole dairy products can help keep your heart healthy. Olga Peshkova/Getty Images
  • Eating more whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and full-fat dairy products may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Experts have found that a healthy diet can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as including moderate amounts of whole grains or unprocessed meats.
  • Focusing on starting small when making dietary changes can help you maintain new eating habits.

A new report finds that if you don’t eat enough of six key foods, you could be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. That’s according to a study conducted by McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences researchers at the Population Research Health Institute (PHRI).

Enlaces Patrocinados:

The study was published July 6 in the European Heart Journal.

The researchers derived a dietary score from the PHRI’s large-scale prospective urban-rural (PURE) global study. They replicated their findings in five independent studies designed to measure health outcomes in different regions of the world and in people with and without prior cardiovascular disease.

They found that consuming whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and whole-fat dairy products was key to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

They also found that a healthy diet can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as including moderate amounts of whole grains or unprocessed meats.

Previous diet scores, including the EAT-Lancet Planetary Diet and the Mediterranean Diet, tested the relationship between diet and diet [cardiovascular disease] and death primarily in Western countries, but the PURE Healthy Diet Score included good representation from high-, middle-, and low-income countries, said Salim Yusuf, senior author and PURE principal investigator in a news release.

This study is also unique in that the other diet scores combined foods considered harmful such as processed and ultra-processed foods with foods and nutrients thought to be protective of one’s health, explained first author Andrew Mente, PHRI scientist and assistant professor at McMasters. Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact in the same news release.

The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends an average of:

  • 2-3 servings per day, fruit
  • 2-3 portions per day, vegetables
  • 1 serving per day, nuts
  • 2 servings per day, dairy products
  • 3-4 weekly servings per week, legumes
  • 2-3 weekly servings per week, fish

Possible substitutes include whole grains in one serving per day and unprocessed red meat or poultry in one serving per day.

Yu-Ming Ni, MD, a cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says these six food groups are the same foods she’s been advocating for years, in the form of the Mediterranean diet .

We have a lot of evidence of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in preventing heart disease, and there are many resources for meal preparation and recipes for following the Mediterranean diet, says Dr. Ni.

Ni adds that it leaves room in the diet for full-fat dairy products, when consumed in an adequate portion.

Appropriate servings of full-fat dairy products, according to Ni, look like:

  • 2 slices of cheese, or
  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or
  • a palm-sized amount of diced cheese

Portion control is especially important for calorie-dense foods like protein, nuts, and dairy products. If you’re unsure, check the nutrition label and look up serving sizes, Ni tells Healthline.

Andy De Santis, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian in Toronto, Canada, said diversity in protein intake is critical to eating for optimal heart health.

Most of our protein intake leans heavily towards chicken, pork, eggs, beef and dairy products, and while there’s nothing wrong with these options, they’re inevitably higher in saturated fat and generally lack truly unique beneficial compounds.

By comparison, De Santis says other protein sources such as nuts, legumes, fish and soy are significantly underconsumed.

Each of these food families has unique and relevant properties that play a role in heart health, she says.

So it’s not to say that you should eat these protein foods and not the others, but it is absolutely true that an adjustment needs to be made to pursue a better balance between protein sources to tap into the unique benefits they offer individually and, of course, collectively. to cardiovascular health, says De Santis.

Food is medicine, until it isn’t, says Kim Shapira MS, RD, celebrity dietitian, nutritional therapist and author of This is what you are truly hungry for.

We are all emotional beings and there is a lot of confusion about what food is, she tells Healthline.

If we remove the emotions and focus on the body there isn’t much confusion, she adds. Our body is a self-healing and self-regulating system that requires a variety of nutrients that come from a balanced diet, she explains.

Shapira explains that we can start making changes and immediately start benefiting from them. And the other good news is that we don’t have to be perfect, we just have to start, he says.

Focus on what you like

De Santis says that as you begin to change eating patterns, it’s crucial to work with foods you actually enjoy.

She recommends identifying your personal favorite foods from each food group and then making sure you have those things around.

You can also think about foods in these groups that you like but haven’t eaten recently, she says.

Start with small changes

If following a balanced diet with more whole foods seems overwhelming, experts recommend starting small.

Shapira, for example, suggests finding new foods at the grocery store every week.

And if that sounds challenging, bring a friend to shop with that can introduce new foods, she says. Buy enough to try 3-4 new fruits, vegetables or whole grains.

Add rather than subtract

Don’t worry so much about what you can’t eat, focus more on what you can add, says Shapiro. This will move your diet in the right direction.

For example, she says organic seeds and nuts are also great add-ons to many dishes.

Get adventurous with seeds and nuts by sprinkling them on your toast, in your salad or smoothie, she suggests. Or you could try a new nut or nut butter this week, she says.

These simple taste tests will be fun for the whole family, Shapira tells Healthline. Get everyone involved and find out who loves what.

Prepare snacks and meals in advance

Shapira recommends preparing your foods when you first get home so they’re easier to grab later.

Fruits and veggies make great snacks, try to find ones you love and make them available for when you’re hungry, she says.

Preparing ahead of time is something Dr. Ni also suggests. It’s more difficult to consume a whole foods diet while having a busy schedule, as most whole foods recipes require a certain amount of preparation, says Ni.

Ni says being prepared can feel like chopping up fruit, putting together a salad, buying prepackaged cooked protein to add to vegetables, or preparing entire meals to freeze for later.

Preparing foods for later will make it easier to have a ready-made whole-food meal rather than picking up unhealthy fast-food items, says Ni.

Pay attention to portion sizes

Next, you can find portion-controlled whole-grain snacks to eat between meals, such as nuts, whole fruits and cheeses, that can satisfy hunger cravings with minimal effort, suggests Ni.

Along with water, these snacks can help control calorie intake and thus help maintain a healthy weight, adds Ni.

Be creative with convenience foods

Finally, Ni says one last piece of advice is to take advantage of an ever-growing number of casual restaurants serving healthy meals that emphasize these 6 food groups, instead of restaurants serving highly processed fast food.

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