Forget diet fads, focus on healthful foods

Rather than follow the latest diet fad, research shows it is more important to ensure that you consume healthful foods. New research reveals that when it comes to cardiovascular health, the type of diet is less important than eating healthful foods.

Most people know that eating a healthful diet is crucial for keeping our heart and our cardiovascular system healthy. But many people are also confused about which diet is best for their health.

To find answers to this question, researchers at Harvard University and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the US compared the effects of three diets on heart disease risks.

Each of the three diets followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) pattern that is rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy, while focusing on one main macronutrient: carbohydrates, proteins, or unsaturated fats.

In the carbohydrates-rich diet, around 58 percent of kilocalories came from carbs; the protein-rich diet replaced 10 percent of kilocalories from carbs with protein; and the unsaturated fat diet replaced 10 percent of kilocalories from carbs with unsaturated fats, for example, from avocados, nuts, and fish.

The team examined the effect of three diets on cardiovascular risk factors, such as systolic blood pressure, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, C-reactive protein levels — a marker of inflammation — and high-sensitivity troponin, a marker of subclinical cardiac injury. The researchers measured the cardiovascular risk factors at the beginning and end of each diet and compared the effects between the diets.

In comparison with the baseline, the analysis revealed that all three diets had positive and prompt effects on heart health, as they all lowered the markers of inflammation and cardiac injury. However, changing the composition of the macronutrients did not make a difference, suggesting that it does not matter whether the diet is high or low in healthful fats or carbs, but that the most important factor for improving heart injury is the general healthfulness of the diet.

In other words, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and high in fiber and restricting the consumption of red meats, sugary beverages, and sweets, will not only improve cardiovascular risk factors but also reduce direct injury to the heart.”