Chocolate is bad for your heart. No, it's good. Wine is unhealthy. No, it's healthy. Pack your plate with protein and cut back on bread to lose weight. No...
With all the mixed messages about "good" and "bad" foods in the media, it's not surprising that many people just give up trying to figure out what they should eat. If you're confused, you're not alone.
"Our research has shown that the No. 1 thing people are confused about when it comes to heart health is what the best diet is," says preventive cardiologist Lori Mosca, MD, founder of Columbia University Medical Center's Preventive Cardiology Program and author of Heart to Heart: A Personal Plan for Creating a Heart-Healthy Family. "Every week there's a conflicting research study or a new book that refutes last year's book."
Forget the competing headlines -- the best way to eat heart healthy is to follow national guidelines from organizations like the American Heart Association. "These are established by experts who monitor research, and are not focused on the latest fads and trends. It's actually much simpler than people realize," Mosca says.
5 Simple Steps to a Heart Healthy Diet
Ready to step up to a diet rich in the healthy nutrients your heart craves? The experts recommend staring here:
- Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fiber.
- Eat fish at least twice a week.
- Limit how much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol you eat. Only 30% of your daily calories should come from fat, with very little of that from saturated fats.
- Select fat-free, 1% fat, and low-fat dairy products.
- Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
- Limit your salt intake.
One way to make sure that your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, and low in saturated fats, is to divide your plate at each meal:
- half vegetables,
- 1/4 high-quality protein (like legumes -- terrific sources of protein and great for a healthy heart!),
- and 1/4 for fish or a very lean meat.
And remember, you should get your nutrients from foods themselves, the antioxidants and other heart-healthy goodies found in foods like blueberries, beans, and artichokes don't pack the same punch when they're not in food form.
And avoid fad diets, advises Mosca. "Almost every one may result in short-term weight loss but leave you weighing even more a year later, and preventing weight gain is one of the best ways to prevent developing heart disease risk factors."
By Gina Shaw
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD