This healthy diet may lower heart disease risk

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In a new study, researchers found that a Pesco-Mediterranean diet rich in plants, nuts, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, and fish and/or seafood is ideal for optimizing heart health.

Intermittent fasting is recommended as part of this diet.

The research was conducted by a team at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute.

The traditional Mediterranean diet has been endorsed by national guidelines as well as the 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

The Mediterranean diet consists of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, tree nuts, and olives), fish/seafood, olive oil, and moderate amounts of dairy products (yogurt and cheese) and eggs.

Multiple studies and randomized clinical trials have indicated that the diet is linked to lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, and some cancers.

Although humans are omnivores and can subsist on a myriad of foods, the ideal diet for health remains a dilemma for many people.

Plant-rich diets reduce cardiovascular disease risk; however, veganism is difficult to follow and can result in important nutrient deficiencies.

On the other hand, many people in modern Western cultures over-consume meat, particularly highly processed meat from animals raised in inhuman conditions.

Previous studies have supported including fish as a part of a heart-healthy diet.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults consume fish at least twice a week in place of red meat, poultry or eggs.

A pescatarian diet includes fish and/or seafood as the primary source of protein and minimizes the consumption of red meat or poultry.

A review of five prospective dietary studies found that compared to regular meat-eaters, coronary artery disease mortality was 34% lower in those following a pescatarian diet.

A Pesco-Mediterranean diet also emphasizes using extra-virgin olive oil in place of butter or other fats. Extra-virgin olive oil is a higher-quality, unrefined olive oil, and has been shown in previous studies to have cardio-metabolic benefits, such as reducing low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol and increasing high-density lipoprotein (“good”) cholesterol.

The researchers recommend using generous amounts of extra-virgin olive oil (high in polyphenol antioxidants) along with vegetable dishes.

To provide an additional source of healthy fats and fibers, the Pesco-Mediterranean diet includes tree nuts.

A recent study showed a daily serving of mixed nuts resulted in a 28% lower risk of heart disease.

The team says the Peso-Mediterranean diet includes dairy products and eggs. Low-fat yogurt and cheeses are preferred; butter and hard cheese are discouraged due to a high concentration of saturated fats and salt.

Eggs contain beneficial nutrients and can be a healthy substitute for red meat; however, the researchers recommend no more than five yolks be consumed per week.

Intermittent fasting, the practice of limiting the daily intake of calories in a specific time window (usually between eight to 12 hours) each day, has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity by forcing the body to switch from burning glucose to fatty acids (usually from belly fat) as the primary metabolic fuel.

The most common form of intermittent fasting is time-restricted eating, consisting of limiting to two, rather than three, meals per day and shortening the calorie-consumption window.

The team says focusing on fresh whole foods, along with fish, bestows a range of health benefits, particularly when it comes to heart health.

The Pesco-Mediterranean diet with daily time-restricted eating is an ideal cardio-protective diet.

One author of the study is James H. O’Keefe, MD.

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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