Heart Healthy Diet

By Charlyn Fargo

August 31, 2018 6 min read

If you're looking for a road map to a healthy diet, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a great place to start. They're revised every five years, with the most recent published in 2015. The next will be out in 2020. In a nutshell, the icon, called My Plate, calls for half your plate to be made up of fruits and vegetables, a fourth of your plate lean protein and a fourth of your plate whole grains. It emphasizes taking a more plant-based approach, with less red meat and dairy, and more fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains for heart health. Red meats have been discouraged, as have dairy.

However, at least one scientist is calling for a few revisions, based on studies he's done recently.

"Thinking on what constitutes a high quality diet for a global population needs to be reconsidered," said Salim Yusuf, senior author and director of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. "For example, our results show that dairy products and meat are beneficial for heart health and longevity. This differs from current dietary advice."

Yusef's results were published in the journal Lancet and presented to the European Society of Cardiology recently.

Yusef and his colleagues examined the link between diet and heart health in almost 140,000 healthy people, ages 35-70, who were clinically followed for more than 9 years. During that time, 6,821 people died, 5,466 of which were from a cardiovascular disease or experienced a heart attack, stroke or heart failure. The quality of participants' diets was assessed using a food score to determine which of the participants were at the highest risk, based on their food consumption.

They found those who consumed a diet emphasizing fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, dairy products and meat had the lowest risks of cardiovascular disease and early death. Those with the highest quality score were 11 percent less likely to experience a major cardiovascular event, 17 percent less likely to have a stroke and 25 percent less likely to diet of any cause.

The researchers also found that the kind of meat makes a difference — unprocessed meat was associated with benefits; processed meat was not.

The bottom line is: balance, variety and moderation. That's what constitutes the healthiest diet. Unprocessed meats, dairy, complex carbs, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats all fit into the plan. Don't leave any of them out to get the most nutrition into your body and to have a lower risk for heart disease.

Q and A

Q: I've been hearing a lot about the health benefits of turmeric, but also about potential side effects. What does the science say?

A: Turmeric is a flowering perennial whose rhizomes are commonly ground into a powder for use in curries and other dishes. It gets its deep orange-yellow color from the polyphenolic compound curcumin. In addition to being sold in the spice aisle, turmeric is available as a dietary supplement. While laboratory and preliminary studies suggest turmeric or curcumin may be helpful for everything from stomach upset and high cholesterol to diabetes, cognitive decline and depression, there are no conclusive human studies, according to Alice Lichtenstein, senior scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. High doses and long-term use can cause nausea and diarrhea and might pose a risk of ulcers. On the other hand, enjoying turmeric in curries is a safe and delicious way to perk up foods. But remember, at this time, claims about the health benefits of turmeric are far from proven.

Information courtesy of Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.


Here's a recipe that will fuel your family for an active lifestyle as the new school year starts. It's quick, easy, heart healthy and full of nutrients including zinc, iron, B vitamins and protein. It's from the website BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.


1 1/4 pounds boneless top sirloin steak

1/3 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Salt, optional

Pineapple Salsa:

1 cup diced fresh pineapple

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced cucumber

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Combine pineapple, red pepper, cucumber and rice vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Combine ketchup, hoisin sauce and sesame oil in small bowl and set aside. Cut beef steak into 1-inch pieces. Thread beef pieces evenly onto four 10-12-inch metal skewers. Season kabobs evenly with pepper. Place kabobs on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill kabobs, covered, 11 to 15 minutes (or over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 13 to 16 minutes), turning occasionally. Brush beef generously with some of the hoisin sauce mixture; season with salt, if desired. Serve kabobs topped with pineapple salsa. Serves 4.

Per serving: 258 calories, 34 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat (2 g sat; 3 g monounsat), 62 mg cholesterol, 1.3 g fiber, 421 mg sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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