Types of diets that improve your health and well-being
A group of panelists discussed at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions annual meeting, which diets they thought were the best for heart health. They analized the already-published data from recent years. Despite of the fact that there wasn’t a clear winner, the panelists agreed on something. The types of diets that improve your health and well-bing is one that is high in vegetables, high in non-processed whole foods, and low in processed meat, added sugar and carbohydrates.
Even if the best diet “depends on the individual” there should be something more general. One of the panelists, Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at Stanford Prevention Research Center said: “I also firmly believe that everyone should focus on a foundational diet that includes all of [these] agreed upon components”.
The panelists discussed three diets — vegan, Mediterranean and keto — and their effects on heart health.
The vegan diet
The vegan diet implies the elimination of all meat and animal products from the diet, and focuses primarily on veggies.
“If you substitute animal protein with plant protein, you would decrease mortality… [and] cardiovascular risk factors” over a period of time, said Dr. Kim Williams, a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, during the session. Past studies have shown that the risk decreases the most when you stop eating processed red meat, he added. Compared with a diet high in meat, a plant-based diet also reduces high blood pressure. There’s evidence it also decreases levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body, he said.
But even without the vegan diet, “if everybody went from (eating) processed red meat to just regular red meat, we would dramatically decrease cardiovascular death in this country,” Williams said.
Even if there are so many benefits , the vegan diet isn’t perfect. The diet can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency — a vitamin that’s found in animal products. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to reduced red blood cell counts, or anemia. What’s more, the vegan diet is not going to work if, along with your veggies, you’re also eating plates of fried food, Williams added. (7 Tips for Moving Toward a More Plant-Based Diet)
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet allows the animal protein, but fish is preferred over red meat. Extra-virgin olive oil takes a lead role in this diet, along with the nuts, lots of vegetables, fruits and wine (in moderation). There’s evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduces levels of “bad” cholesterol and is associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Even so, the Mediterranean is far from being perfect. A major study touting its benefits was retracted because of problems with the methodology. Though some experts said that the retraction significantly weakened the claim that the Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy. Others said there’s enough other research showing it is beneficial, and that they’d continue to recommend it, Live Science reported.
The principal investigator of that trial, Dr. Miguel Martínez-Gonzalez, an epidemiologist at the University of Navarra in Spain, was also a panelist at Saturday’s talk. He noted that even after the team retracted the study and reanalyzed the data, the findings, for the most part, held true: The diet is still heart-healthy.
The keto diet
Finally, we will refer to ketogenic diet. This is one that’s low in carbohydrates and high in fat, with a moderate amount of protein. Dr. Sarah Hallberg, the medical director at Virta Health, stressed during the session that the keto diet “it is a whole food diet, .. [not] a hotdog and cheese diet.”
Carbohydrates can come from non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds, some berries, or dairy. However, in the diet you have to avoid grains, potatoes or sugar, Hallberg said. According to Hallberg, this diet also decreases risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
However, other experts have raised concerns that people on the keto diet are more prone than others to regain weight they’ve lost. This would happen because the diet can be difficult to stick to in the long run, Live Science reported in May. What’s more, the high levels of fat and cholesterol in the keto diet may be harmful for heart health.
Eat real food, not processed food
Though all the panelists felt strongly about the diet they advocated for, there was some common ground. The major point that the panelists agreed on is that whole foods are much better than processed foods.
The people need to understand the importance of preparing their meals at home. Even more, they should understand the societal and planetary consequences of what they eat or in other words, should get more education on this field.