Hundreds of diet books and thousands of websites promise to deliver the diet that will secure your heart’s health. Proponents of diets defend their choices with unbridled passion. But don’t believe everything that you hear or read. Few of the recommendations are supported by reliable, evidence-based research. The data on diets and heart protection are out there, but you need to know where to look and how to interpret the information once you find it.
We can point you to the best heart diet with one word: Mediterranean.
Following the Evidence
In the 1950s, University of Minnesota researcher Ancel Keys recognized that there was something special going on in the Mediterranean region. In his landmark Seven Countries Study, Keys reported a 20-year analysis of heart disease and dietary habits among 12,000 men from communities in Italy, the Greek islands, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Finland, Japan, and the United States. He found that despite a high fat intake, people from the Greek islands had very low rates of coronary heart disease and long life expectancies. He linked this to their diet, and the term Mediterranean diet was coined.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
Although more than 15 countries border the Mediterranean Sea, the diets have certain common elements:
- Plant foods: Fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains
- Olive oil
- Poultry: Moderate amounts
- Eggs: Fewer than 4 per week
- Dairy: Low-fat offerings, moderate consumption of cheese and yogurt
- Wine: Moderate consumption with meals
- Very little red meat