This past week in Canada has brought about the debate of whether certain foods are ok to have for a heart-healthy diet, specifically red meat. Many doctors agree that eating red meat is linked to cancer and heart disease, but are the risks big enough to give up burgers and steak? This has been a hotly debated issue ever since this story came out suggesting that it’s alright to have it once in a while, going against established advice.
Although it’s always good to have a discussion around what is good and what isn’t good for a heart-healthy diet, we believe in proven and long-standing recommended methods. Below are some of these heart-healthy diets.
Researchers and heart-related organizations have developed a dietary plan called, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or what is known as the DASH diet. The diet consists of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and a lower level of salt. Dietitians of Canada states that DASH can even be as effective as some medications in helping keep blood pressure levels in a normal range.
To help walk us through this diet, we’ve asked our Registered Dietitian, Marsha Rosen, to explain its components and what a normal day would be like on the DASH diet.
The DASH diet emphasizes making meal and snack choices from the following Food Groups:
- Low Fat or No-Fat Dairy Foods
- Lean meats, poultry and fish
- Nuts, seeds and dry legumes
- Fats and oils
The DASH Eating Plan outlines what you would eat normally if you followed a 2000 calorie a day diet.
|Food Group||Number of|
|Example of serving size|
|Grains||6-8||1 slice whole grain bread ½ cup cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta *Choose whole grains like oats, millet, barley, bulgur and quinoa most often*|
|Vegetables||4-5||½ cup any raw or cooked vegetable 1 cup raw leafy vegetable ½ cup low sodium or reduced sodium vegetable and tomato juice|
|Fruit||4-5||1 medium fruit|
¼ cup dried fruit½ cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit or juice
|Low-fat milk products||2-3||1 cup skim or 1% milk 1 cup low-fat yogurt (2% milk fat or less) 1.5 oz low-fat cheese (19% milk fat or less)|
|Lean meat, poultry and fish||6 or less||1 oz cooked lean meat, skinless poultry or fish|
|Nuts, seeds and legumes||4-5 times per week||1/3 cup unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts) 2 Tbsp peanut butter 2 Tbsp seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) ½ cup cooked legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas)|
|Fats and oils||2-3||1 tsp non-hydrogenated, unsalted margarine 1 tsp oil (olive, canola, etc.) 1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing|
|Sweets and added sugars||5 or less per week||1 tbsp sugar, jelly or jam ½ cup sorbet|
In addition to focusing on these key food areas, the DASH eating plan encourages you to eat foods that are high in potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Potassium – Good sources of potassium include tomatoes, bananas, oranges, potatoes, nuts, lentils, beans, milk and fish.
Magnesium – Good sources of magnesium include spinach, whole grain cereals, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, soy and lentils.
Calcium – High amounts are found in milk, yoghurt, canned fish with bones mashed in, leafy green vegetables, beans and tofu (manufactured using calcium salts).
And finally – all of this is a wonderful beginning to lifelong healthy eating habits – the one other key step is to introduce some regular exercise that is personally enjoyable and done regularly. Get some professional help if you need it to start you on an appropriate program.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. While there is no single definition of the Mediterranean diet, it is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil.
The main components of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
- Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
- Moderate portions of dairy products
- Limited intake of red meat
Other important elements of the Mediterranean diet are sharing meals with family and friends, enjoying a glass of red wine and being physically active.
Plant-based, not meat-based
The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains. Meals are built around these plant-based foods. Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs are also central to the Mediterranean Diet, as is seafood. In contrast, red meat is eaten only occasionally.
Healthy fats are a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet. They’re eaten instead of less healthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, which contribute to heart disease.
Olive oil is the primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat, which has been found to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels. Nuts and seeds also contain monounsaturated fat.
Fish are also important in the Mediterranean diet. Fatty fish — such as mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon and lake trout — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that may reduce inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids also help decrease triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, and decrease the risk of stroke and heart failure.
Eating the Mediterranean way
Interested in trying the Mediterranean diet? These tips will help you get started:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for 7 to 10 servings a day of fruit and vegetables.
- Opt for whole grains. Switch to whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta. Experiment with other whole grains, such as bulgur and farro.
- Use healthy fats. Try olive oil as a replacement for butter when cooking. Instead of putting butter or margarine on bread, try dipping it in flavored olive oil.
- Eat more seafood. Eat fish twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grilled fish tastes good and requires little cleanup. Avoid deep-fried fish.
- Reduce red meat. Substitute fish, poultry or beans for meat. If you eat meat, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small.
- Enjoy some dairy. Eat low-fat Greek or plain yogurt and small amounts of a variety of cheeses.
- Spice it up. Herbs and spices boost flavor and lessen the need for salt.
The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat. Many people who switch to this style of eating say they’ll never eat any other way.
Do you have any diets or recipes that you’d like to recommend to us? Send us a message!