The American Heart Association, the highest scientific benchmark in cardiology in the United States, has described 10 keys to a heart-healthy eating patternemphasizing the importance of an overall dietary pattern rather than individual “good” or “bad” foods or nutrients, highlighting the critical role of nutrition at all stages of life.
Food is key, and although it is sometimes difficult to change habits that we have become accustomed to throughout our lives, at a certain age it is advisable to rethink some of them, especially if until now we have not taken care of ourselves enough. In this way, the American Heart Association puts the focus on the benefits of a healthy diet for the heartemphasizing that the poor quality of a diet is “closely related” to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
A balanced and varied eating pattern
When we hear that a diet, to be healthy, must be balanced and varied, it is not to be taken lightly. But not only food has to be taken into account; An eating pattern refers to balance, variety, amounts, and combination of foods and beverages consumed on a regular basis, according to the association. And in this sense, nutritional education is also very important, starting to eat healthily in the early stages of life and maintaining this style of eating throughout life.
“We can all benefit from a heart-healthy eating pattern, no matter what stage of lifeand it is possible to design one that is coherent with personal preferences, lifestyles and cultural mores,” said chair of the scientific statement writing group, Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc., FAHA, principal investigator and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition team at the Center for research on human nutrition and aging Jean Mayer of the USDA at Tufts University in Boston.
The 10 Characteristics of an Eating Pattern to Promote Heart Health
It is possible to follow a heart-healthy eating pattern even when we eat out. No matter the lifestyle, just a little planning until you get into a routine. To help us, the American Heart Association details the 10 characteristics of a eating pattern to promote heart health:
- Accompany the intake of food and calories with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.
- include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our diet to get a wide variety of nutrients from food rather than supplements.
- Choose foods that are made up of whole grains.
- Include healthy sources of lean or high-fiber proteinsuch as plant proteins (nuts and legumes), fish or shellfish, low-fat or fat-free dairy; and limit red and processed meats.
- Use non-tropical liquid vegetable oilssuch as olive or sunflower oils.
- Limit consumption of ultra-processed foods.
- Minimize the consumption of drinks and foods with added sugars.
- Don’t go overboard with salt or choose foods with little or no salt.
- Limit alcohol consumption; “If you don’t drink, don’t start.”
- Apply these points no matter where we eat.
For all ages
Nutrition plays a critical role in heart health throughout lifewhich is also influenced by other healthy behaviors such as exercise regularly and avoid exposure to tobaccoto reduce the risk of developing high levels of “bad” cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, each of which can increase the risk of heart disease.
A heart-healthy diet in women before and after pregnancy can also reduce risk factors for heart disease, which in turn can help prevent unhealthy weight gain in your children. In turn, people who eat a heart-healthy diet have a slower age-related decline in terms of cognitive abilities and memory.
And it is also good for the environment, as commonly consumed animal products, especially red meat (beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison, or goat), have the greatest environmental impact in terms of land and water use, and contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, shifting the reliance on meat to plant proteins can help improve individual health and the environment.
However, the American Heart Association reminds that not all sustainable diets are heart healthysince a plant-based diet that includes many refined carbohydrates and added sugars will increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.