February is American Heart Month, and the American Dietetic Association has marked it with the publication of a spectacular review of over 150 research studies that "provides a scientific rationale" for what exactly we can eat to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. The review, which appears in the February 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, is a scholarly synopsis of the American Dietetic Association's Evidence Analysis Library report on "Disorders of Lipid Metabolism".
After examining and sorting through all the evidence of what diet and lifestyle factors have contributed to coronary heart disease/cardiovascular disease - and what diet lifestyle factors can prevent or treat coronary heart disease/cardiovascular disease - here's what the American Dietetic Association's Expert Panel recommends: (*my notes are in blue)
- Keep your saturated fat intake to less than 7% of your daily calories; your trans fatty acid intake to 0%, and your dietary cholesterol intake to less than 200 mg a day. *Only animal products have dietary cholesterol! Read labels carefully, or use a food calculator like MyFoodDiary for a couple of months to really see what you are eating. It works! Trans fats = hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats on food labels. The label may say 0% trans fats, but if the ingredients list partially or hydrogenated fats, stay away!
- Eat a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which includes both EPA & DHA. (at least 500 mg/day if you are preventing heart disease; at least 1 gram/day if you have heart disease; and 2-4 grams/day to lower triglycerides; physician supervision is indicated for patients); consume fish at least twice a week. Herring & salmon have the highest omega 3's. Consider taking a high quality omega-3 fatty acid (Fish oil) supplement if you can't eat enough fish.
- Eat ample total dietary fiber (30 g/day) with emphasis on soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in oatmeal, psyllium (Metamucil), apples, oat bran, and beans.
- Include unsalted nuts (1 oz.) as tolerated and limited by how many calories you need to eat to maintain a healthy weight. Stick to raw or dry roasted nuts. You don't need any of the oil that's used for roasting nuts.
- Consider other vegetable proteins sources such as soy and beans. Try Boca Burger products, Nate's Meatless Meatballs, Morning Star Farm products, hummous, adding beans to your salads, and use refrield beans in quick enchiladas.
- Include skim/low-fat dairy foods and/or other calcium/vitamin D-rich sources.
- Make sure your diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and anti-oxidants from multiple servings of fruits and vegetables. Aim for 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables (in a variety of colors) a day. Really!
- Keep you sodium intake low, to less than 2,300 mg/day.
- Eat foods rich in B vitamins and fiber from food sources such as whole grains and vegetables. Best practice is to learn to eat mostly whole grains, and hardly ever eat white flour or white rice.
- Consider including plant sterols and stanols if you are at high risk for coronary/cardiovascular disease. You'll find plant sterols in these products, from Corowise, or in pill form from the Endurance Products. Plant sterols can lower your cholesterol by 15-20%. They're safe and widely available in grocery stores. Intake of 2 grams a day is considered optimal.
- Eat a diet that achieves a healthful body weight and energy balance with the recommended dietary interventions by increasing physical activity and maintaining an adequate calorie intake. Medical nutritional therapy represents the ideal approach to treating coronary/cardiovascular disease patients.