A 'Whole Food' Perspective on Heart-Healthy Eating, from the Harvard Heart Letter

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The focus is on foods, not on food components like fat and fiber.

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Debate about what constitutes a heart-healthy diet has been simplified, thanks to three nutrition experts whose advice is summarized in the November 2011 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter. The focus is on foods you should eat, not nutrients you shouldn’t.

“For most people, getting more of what’s missing will have a larger benefit than limiting certain nutrients,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The “shoulds,” according to Dr. Mozaffarian and the two other nutrition experts, include the following:

  •     4 to 5 daily servings each of fruits and vegetables
  •     3-plus daily servings of whole, unrefined grain products
  •     2 to 3 daily servings of low- or nonfat dairy products
  •     2 to 6 daily servings of vegetable oils
  •     2 or more weekly servings of fish or shellfish
  •     4 to 5 weekly servings of nuts and seeds

A handy table in this month’s Heart Letter specifies how much a serving of each food type really is and gives specific grocery-store examples.

On the no-eat list is any food containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. The eat-less-of list consists of processed meats, sugary beverages, sweets, and baked goods made with refined grains.

Another useful tip: you can distinguish between healthy and not-so-healthy carbohydrates, most people’s major source of calories, by dividing the grams of carbohydrates per serving by the grams of fiber. An answer less than 10 is good for bread or pastry; aim for less than 5 for cereals.

Read the full-length article: “Latest thinking on a "cardioprotective" diet”

Also in this issue:

  •     The hidden hazards of high blood pressure
  •     Can a hospital stay make you anemic?
  •     Paying attention to the signs of worsening heart failure
  •     Should you stop taking aspirin and/or Plavix before having a tooth pulled?

The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $29 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

Media: Contact Raquel Schott at Raquel_Schott(at)hms(dot)harvard(dot)edu for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

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