Heart disease diets might not include your favorite foods. But if you are open to change and willing to experiment, you should be able to create an eating plan that is varied and enjoyable.
Numerous diets have been recommended over the years. Heart-healthy diet books are available including Esselstyn’s “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, Campbell’s “China Study” and Sears “Zone Diet”.
These diets promote hormonal balance, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and promote healthy weight loss. They may also be beneficial in type II diabetes, as the foods promote more stable blood sugar levels.
While the foods recommended by the different sources vary, possibly due to personal tastes, there are some commonalities.
Foods to Avoid
Although Esselstyn’s diet is plant-based and most of the others focus heavily on fruits and vegetables, there are some plant foods that should be avoided.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should avoid:
Coconut (high in saturated fats) § Vegetables with creamy sauces (creamed corn, creamed peas, etc.) § Fried or breaded vegetables (French fries, onion rings, etc.) § Canned fruit packed in heavy syrup (because of the added sugars) § Frozen fruits with added sugars
Grains are plant-based foods, but refined grains should be avoided, because of their effects on blood sugar levels and their high calorie content. Combination foods such as cakes and pies are high both in refined grains and added sugars.
Some foods to avoid:
White bread Muffins Frozen waffles Doughnuts Biscuits Granola bars
The diet should be low in total fat. Esselstyn recommends the near elimination of beef, pork, turkey, chicken and other meats. Some diets are less restrictive, but there is a general agreement that meat is a big problem, because of the saturated fat.
Cheese is another problem food. It is the largest source of saturated fat in the American diet. Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels.
There is agreement that trans-fats should be eliminated. They are listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oils. Vegetable shortening and lards are examples of trans-fats.
Foods to Eat
Fish, as long as it is baked or grilled, can be eaten in nearly unlimited quantities and can be used to replace meat in the diet.
All raw fruits and vegetables are good choices.
Berries are particularly healthy because of all the antioxidants they contain. Antioxidants may help prevent the oxidation of fats in the bloodstream.
Yogurt may be beneficial, because of the probiotics it contains. Probiotics help to balance gut flora, which makes your digestive system more efficient. Some studies suggest the food keeps your gums healthy, too.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains help to keep your arteries clear. They contain soluble fiber that absorbs cholesterol from foods and that produced by your liver. Cholesterol leaves the liver and enters the digestive system. If it is not carried away as waste with soluble fiber, it can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Oatmeal and brown rice are good choices.
The healthiest fats include those found in fish like salmon, those in olive oil and those in nuts. As you can see, there are plenty of foods to choose from and this is only a short list. You just may need some new recipe books for your heart disease diet.