If you were to design the ideal meal plan for a healthy heart, a lot of evidence suggests that it would be the Pesco-Mediterranean diet, with daily intermittent fasting, a group of doctors declared this week.
It is still the plant-rich, olive-oil-lubricated Mediterranean diet that most people are familiar with, but places more emphasis on seafood as the main source of animal protein.
This style of eating has many benefits, especially when it comes to long-term heart health and longevity, the authors wrote in a review of the study, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
This resolves the “omnipotent dilemma”. When you can eat anything – like humans can – what do you choose that is good for you, but also tasty and sustainable for the long term?
This “junky” Western Diet High in Processed Meats, Refined Carbohydrates, and Saturated Fat is not, the paper’s lead author at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, and lead author of preventive cardiology. James O’Keefe said.
Vegan diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, but can also lead to weakened bones and muscles or anemia.
Enter the Pesco-Mediterranean diet, which O’Keefe himself follows.
“It’s satiety, it’s pleasant, it’s delicious and it’s super healthy,” O’Keefe told TODAY.
When he spoke of adding intermittent fast to the mix, he and his colleagues felt that “the science is strong enough now that we can support it as a healthy thing to do,” he said.
Plant based diet
The traditional Mediterranean eating style – referred to as the “gold standard for heart health” – is primarily a plant-rich diet consisting of lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts. Olive oil serves as the main fat source, while very little red and processed meats are consumed.
Several studies and randomized clinical trials have found this diet to be associated with a lower risk for premature dying of heart disease or the development of coronary heart disease, the authors noted.
The diet should include three or more servings of vegetables and two or more fruit servings a day.
fish and seafood
A non-vegetarian diet – according to this plan is part of the “Pesco” eating plan – is still a plant-rich diet, but with seafood as the main source of meat. Fish is a high quality protein that satiates, and helps in building muscles and bones. It provides vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that may be missing in a vegetarian or vegan diet.
O’Keefe said that regular intake of fish has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk, “so we felt it deserved a certain place in the title.”
The goal is to eat seafood at least three times a week. Choose low-mercury fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, herring and anchovies. Avoid grazing or burning the fish during cooking, which may introduce carcinogenic compounds, the authors warned.
Fish is high in omega-3s, low in saturated fat and moderate in calories, so it is superior to beef or chicken as a protein source, a registered dietitian in New York and author of “Ultimately Full, Finally Slim” Agrees with Young.
The authors noted that coronary artery disease mortality was 34% lower than regular meat-eaters.
Moderate use of extra virgin olive oil is an important part of the Mediterranean diet. The study notes that it is important to choose high-quality oil made from cold-pressing olives, which maintain their powerful antioxidants and make products equivalent to “pure olive juice”.
The authors recommend the intake of four or more tablespoons a day of EVOO, which can be used for eating salads or for light cooking.
“At our house, I can tell you that we don’t even think about limiting the amount of olive oil, we just use it as much as we want and we pass in about a week – just My wife and I, “said O’Keefe.
But Young cautioned most people to go overboard with Amrit.
“You can’t add a bottle of olive oil to the normal American diet,” Young cautions. “If you’re doing full fat cheese, some meat, fried foods and croutons, you don’t want to pour a bottle of olive oil over it.”
Eggs and dairy
The Pesco-Mediterranean diet allows egg consumption, but preferably more than five yolk per week – although there is no limit on egg bites. It also carefully allows fermented low-fat versions of dairy, including yogurt, kefir and soft cheeses.
Nuts and beans
The study states that nuts, which are loaded with unsaturated fat, fiber, protein, and nutrients, are “one of the most effective foods for improving long-term health outcomes.” They are filling so that they do not promote weight gain. Young recommends swapping candy bars or any other typical afternoon snack for a handful of nuts.
Eating beans has been linked to improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.
Young recommended eating a variety of both foods to capture most nutrients: mixed nuts, and lots of legumes including chickpeas, lentils and split peas.
Go for a 1-ounce serving of nuts a day and three or more servings of legumes a week.
The staple drink of this diet is water – either still, carbonated or used to make tea or coffee. It can be tasted but not sweet. Dry red wine is carefully allowed: up to one glass for women, and up to two glasses for men, consumed with food.
“Most Americans eat from the moment they go to bed,” O’Keefe said. “But when we stop our bodies from digesting food, it is good for that.”
The study states that fasting for at least 12 hours daily, at bedtime and which can be extended up to 16 hours, increases heart health and lower blood pressure.