Food Trends and Heart Health
One of the best things we can do for our hearts is eat a healthy, balanced diet. While some risk factors for heart disease remain out of our control, our food intake is in our control and can have a large impact on the heart. Not only will good food keep the body fueled and impact blood pressure and cholesterol, but a healthy diet also aids in weight loss and encourages an active lifestyle.
While the idea of a healthy diet sounds great, sometimes implementing it can be confusing. There may be lots of discussion about the latest, greatest thing to improve your health, but how healthy are these food trends? Are they really all they are cracked up to be? This article explores a few popular food trends and their impact on heart health.
In recent years, some have promoted coconut oil as a heart-healthy alternative to butter for cooking and sauteing. Although those promoting its use are correct that the type of saturated fat in coconut oil can raise HDL, or good cholesterol, there are also some concerns. Because coconut oil is so high in saturated fats, it can also raise your LDL, or bad cholesterol. Studies haven’t yet proven the good effects of coconut oil, and there are much better alternatives. Both olive oil and canola oil are both heart healthy fats supported by research.
Plant-based meat substitutes
Plant-based substitutes for hamburgers, such as the Impossible Burger, have been marketed as a nutritious and environmentally friendly way of enjoying a favorite meal. Excess red meat has repercussions for heart health, and the Impossible Burger is much higher in fiber and has added vitamins and minerals. However, the Impossible Burger also contains lots of sodium and saturated fats, which are known to increase blood pressure and have a potential negative impact on heart health. While reducing your intake of red meat is a good move for heart health, be sure you’re still monitoring the sodium and fat content of plant-based meat substitutes.
Turmeric is a well-known and researched spice that likely does have benefits for heart health. The key here is curcumin, which is found in turmeric and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. Research shows it can improve the function of the blood vessels, which could improve blood pressure and lessen plaque buildup and the risk of clots. However, turmeric may interact with some medications, so be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a turmeric supplement.
Intermittent fasting is the practice of restricting eating to a certain window of time during the day, though the hours when you eat vary from person to person. It is difficult to determine the overall effect of intermittent fasting on your heart health. Intermittent fasting may improve the way your body metabolizes your food, aid in weight loss, lower LDL cholesterol, and decrease risk for developing diabetes. However, restricted eating could have negative repercussions for those who have struggled with eating disorders, are pregnant, or already have certain medical conditions. Before starting intermittent fasting, it’s best to check with your doctor to see if any of your current medical conditions are cause for concern with this style of eating.
The best way to eat for heart health
Sometimes simple is best. Rather than following every food trend in search of the perfect diet, focus on the basics. Eat a balanced diet that includes whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, and a focus on healthy fats. For many of us, the best way to do this is to begin by first filling our plate with vegetables and then adding whole grains and protein. Strive for less processed foods, as they often contain excess salt.
Additionally, diet and exercise go hand in hand. As you improve your diet, take time to get out and move your body. Whether a brisk walk, exercise class, or at-home workout video, find a way to increase your movement. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor as you begin any new diet or exercise routine. If you have questions about a specific food trend, talk to your doctor about how it could affect your heart health.