Cardiologist-Approved Heart-Healthy Foods

We are all bombarded with information about which dietary patterns and foods are best for our health.  And since heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in our country, baby boomers and older adults have a vested interest in knowing what they should be eating to stay heart-healthy as long as possible.

Learn the best foods to support your heart.

For the second year, cardiologists have published a list evaluating health claims for various foods.  According to an article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, July, 2018, “Each topic was covered by a group of experts familiar with the corresponding science and published data; the highest-quality papers were included. In cases of debate or divide, the group as a whole weighed in to achieve consensus. The current review addresses additional contemporary nutrition controversies and provides evidence-based recommendations…”

To start, “…there are a number of dietary components and patterns that have clearly been demonstrated to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD). Evidence-based healthy dietary patterns are high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, in addition to nuts in moderation; some may include modest quantities of lean meats (including poultry and fish), low-fat dairy products, liquid vegetable oils, and alcoholic beverages

Here are some specifics and additional foods:

Dairy products:  Unfortunately, there is no clear consensus on the effect of dairy products on cardiovascular (CV) disease.  However, the full-fat versions are major sources of saturated fat and sodium (think: cheese) in our diet, and should be “limited.”  On the upside, reduced-fat dairy products provide some essential vitamins and minerals, and high-quality protein.

Added sugar:  Good-quality evidence has now linked added sugars to CV risk.  Individuals are cautioned to limit added sugar to <10% of calories, <100 calories for women and <150 for men.  Check Food Labels for added sugar information, and keep the intake of highly-sugared processed foods low.

Coffee: Habitual consumption of coffee can lower the risk of CVD death.  Added sugar and fats may negate health benefits.

Tea:  Tea with no added sweeteners, sugars, or dairy products may be associated with improved CVD health.

Wine, liquor, and beer:  There is not sufficient evidence to recommend alcoholic beverages for CVD risk reduction.  Drink in limited amounts, preferably with meals.

Energy drinks:  There is not a lot of strong evidence regarding energy drinks and CVD.  “Energy drinks should be avoided until more definitive research can be conducted. For now, there appears to be some evidence of harm.”

Fermented foods and seaweed:  Currently there is no strong evidence to recommend these foods for CV health, “although there is also no evidence of harm from their consumption.”

Omega-3 fatty acids:  Non-supplemental forms seems to be favored for heart-healthy diets (eat food sources such as fatty fish and green leafy plants, walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil, and flaxseeds/flaxseed oil).

Vitamin B12:  Many studies do not support the supplementation of B12 to prevent CVD.  However, older adults may be deficient in this vitamin due to a decrease in absorption.  Check with your doctor to see if you need supplementation.

Bottom line:

When it comes to heart health, you can’t miss with fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, and legumes, as well as high-fat fish (salmon, sardines, etc.).  For other “miracle” foods, additional well-designed studies are still needed for across-the-board recommendations for consumption.  So as you’ve heard before, limit added sugar and highly-processed foods, watch the addition of saturated fats to your diet, limit alcohol to one drink/day for women and two for men, and check with your healthcare provider before taking any vitamin supplements.

For help in making food intake decisions, give me a call!

We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for you.
If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that – oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.

Lisa Teresi Harris is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and author of the book Building Your Enduring Fitness.  A certified Geri-Fit Instructor, she helps Boomers and seniors to regain and keep muscle strength, mobility, and energy.
Contact Lisa to inquire about a customized, in-home fitness program for you or a loved one.



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