3 ways to unlock the power of food to promote heart health Health

Your diet—the foods and drinks you eat, not short-term restrictive programs—can affect your risk of heart disease. An evidence-based approach to eating is used by dietitians and physicians to prevent and treat cardiovascular (heart) disease. National Nutrition Month, with its 2023 theme of Unlocking the Potential of Food, is an ideal opportunity to learn more about these approaches and adopt more heart-friendly behaviors. (Also Read: Heart Attack Warning Signs That Women May Confuse With Menopause Symptoms)

Plant-based diets can range from completely vegetarian to diets that include small to moderate amounts of animal products. (Freepik)
Plant-based diets can range from completely vegetarian to diets that include small to moderate amounts of animal products. (Freepik)

The Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) clinical practice guidelines recommend three main dietary patterns to reduce heart disease risk: the Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Prevent Hypertension (DASH) and the Portfolio Diet.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil and seafood. Research studies have shown that this diet reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke, even if you already have heart disease, and offers many other health benefits. Dietitians of Canada has created a resource that summarizes the details of this approach to food.

The DASH diet focuses on eating vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and nuts while limiting foods high in red and processed meat, added sugar, and sodium.

Originally developed to treat high blood pressure, this diet can also lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C – the unhealthy type of cholesterol) and provide many other health benefits. Heart and Stroke has many resources on this approach to eating.

The Portfolio Diet was originally developed in Canada to treat high cholesterol. It emphasizes plant protein (for example, soy and other legumes); nuts; Viscous (or “sticky”) fiber sources such as oats, barley and psyllium; plant sterols; And healthy oils like olive oil, canola oil and avocado.

Several research studies have shown that this diet can lower LDL-C, and provide many other health benefits. Research shows that even small additions of heart-healthy foods to a portfolio diet can make a difference; The more you consume these recommended foods, the lower your LDL-C and heart disease risk will be.

The Canadian Cardiovascular Society has an infographic on how to follow the Portfolio Diet.

A common theme among these three approaches to eating is that they are all considered plant-based, and small changes can make a difference in your overall heart disease risk.

“Plant-based” doesn’t mean you have to be 100 percent vegan or vegetarian to reap their benefits. Plant-based diets can range from completely vegetarian to diets that include small to moderate amounts of animal products.

Knowledge of a healthy eating approach is key, but behavior unlocks the power of food. Below are three strategies to use to realize the potential of food to promote heart health. They show that by combining the power of nutrition and psychology, you can improve your chances of making long-term changes.

You don’t have to do it alone. We recommend requesting a referral from your physician (this helps to get an appointment covered by your insurance) to work with a registered dietitian and/or psychologist (behaviorist) to unlock the potential of food to co-create your own ways for the

3 ways to unlock the power of food

1. Achieve 90 percent of the target and win

When planning to accomplish bigger and harder goals in the future, choose a goal that you are 90 percent sure you can succeed at. This approach helps you build confidence in your skills and provides valuable information about what works for you and what doesn’t.

Research that starts with 90 percent of goals is more likely to meet future goals. 90 percent of Target Monday (Meatless Monday) meals can be swapped out for plant proteins — such as tofu or beans — for animal proteins.

Another example: Use a meal delivery service that delivers measured ingredients with plant-based recipes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so you can get some new ideas on how to incorporate more plants into your meals.

2. Why remove and ban, when you can replace?

Choose a “switch” goal or work with a registered dietitian to replace healthy choices for your current foods and beverages. Don’t set goals that might cause you to focus more on foods you’re trying to avoid (for example, “stop eating sugar”).

Instead, a substitution approach might include things like choosing low-sodium soups or buying pre-cut vegetables with the goal of cutting your portion of starch in a meal in half. Canada’s Food Guide, Diabetes Canada and Heart and Stroke recommend that half of your plate be vegetables.

3. Set value-based goals

Connect your goal to something that is deeply important to you. While long-term consequences (such as heart disease) can be motivation for change, research shows that things that matter to us motivate us the most. Choosing personal and meaningful reasons for change will help in lasting change.

For example, choose to cook a meal that includes vegetables with a close friend or family member, so you can share the experience and spend time together. This example can be rooted in the following values: kindness, relational values, cultural values, empathy, courage.

Unlock the power of food

Research shows that the key to changing diet is focusing on changing eating habits and eating behaviors, one at a time.

The support of a nutrition professional, such as a registered dietitian and/or a psychologist, can help you make informed choices and plans tailored to your unique needs, circumstances, preferences, traditions, abilities and capabilities.

Shannan M. Grant, by Mount Saint Vincent University; Andrea J. Glenn, Harvard University; Dayna Lee-Baggley, Dalhousie University

This story is published from the Wire Agency feed without modification to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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