In a recent report published in Circulation, the American Heart Association (AHA) ranked the most popular diets based on their heart healthiness. While many diets may help you lose weight quickly, they may not necessarily be good for your heart. The AHA recommends consuming lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and oils, while limiting processed foods, added sugars, and alcohol. The report classified diets into four tiers, with the Mediterranean and DASH diets ranking the highest for heart health. On the other hand, the ketogenic and paleo diets ranked among the worst due to their restrictions on heart-healthy foods. At Diet-to-Go, we believe in a common-sense approach to healthy eating that allows you to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation while still prioritizing heart-healthy choices.
The Most Heart-Healthy Diets – Tiers 1 and 2
When it comes to heart health, certain diets have been shown to be more beneficial than others. According to a recent report from the American Heart Association (AHA) published in Circulation, the Mediterranean and DASH diets are among the highest-ranking diets in terms of heart healthiness. These diets focus on incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats into your meals, while limiting the consumption of processed foods, added sugars, and alcohol.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a popular eating plan that is inspired by the traditional cuisines of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. This diet emphasizes eating whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as fish and seafood. It also encourages the use of healthy fats, such as olive oil, and moderate consumption of wine. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease.
If you’re interested in adopting the Mediterranean diet, Diet-to-Go offers a fantastic meal plan that delivers delicious, heart-healthy meals right to your door. Their Mediterranean meal plan is rich in whole, heart-healthy foods and allows you to enjoy mouth-watering meals like Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal for breakfast, Turkey Meatloaf for lunch, and Baked Salmon with Pineapple Salsa for dinner – without any cooking involved!
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was initially developed to help individuals lower their blood pressure, but it has also been shown to improve heart health and overall well-being. This diet encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products while limiting sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars. The DASH diet is considered a well-balanced and flexible approach to healthy eating, making it easier for individuals to follow long-term.
Another heart-healthy diet is the pescetarian diet, which allows for the consumption of fish but eliminates other meats. Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon and tuna, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve heart health. By substituting meat with fish, pescetarians can still meet their protein needs while reaping the benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Vegetarian diets have also been associated with improved heart health. These diets focus on plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, while omitting all forms of meat. By eliminating meat, vegetarians typically have a lower intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, both of which can contribute to heart disease. Diet-to-Go offers a Vegetarian meal plan that is adapted from their No. 1-rated Balance Menu. It provides calorie-controlled, nutritionally-balanced meals that are controlled for sodium, carbs, fat, and cholesterol.
The Least Heart-Healthy Diets – Tiers 3 and 4
While some diets are heart-healthy, others can have a negative impact on heart health. The ketogenic and paleo diets, for example, ranked among the worst for heart health according to the AHA report.
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that has gained popularity for its potential weight loss benefits. However, this diet restricts carbohydrate intake to less than 10% of daily calories, which cuts out heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. While it may lead to short-term weight loss, the long-term effects on heart health are not well understood. The high intake of fatty meats like bacon and steak in this diet can also increase LDL cholesterol levels, which can contribute to heart disease.
The paleo diet is based on the idea of eating like our ancestors did during the Paleolithic era. It includes foods that were available to early humans, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. While the paleo diet emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, it can also be high in saturated fats due to the consumption of fatty meats. This can raise LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the restriction of grains and legumes in this diet eliminates important sources of fiber and certain nutrients that are beneficial for heart health.
The Effects of Restricting Carbs
Both the ketogenic and paleo diets restrict carbohydrate intake, which can have implications for heart health. Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body and provide essential nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Restricting carbohydrates to very low levels can lead to an inadequate intake of these nutrients. Additionally, the elimination of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, can deprive the body of important compounds that contribute to heart health.
The best diet for heart health is one that you can stick with long-term. At Diet-to-Go, they believe in a common-sense approach to healthy eating that allows you to enjoy the foods you love in smaller quantities. Their Balance Menu has been helping people achieve their goals for over 30 years by offering restaurant-quality, portion-controlled meals that incorporate heart-healthy foods like lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Moderation and balance are key when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease.