Healthy Foods and Heart Issues

Healthy Foods and Heart Issues Healthy Foods and Heart Issues

Emphasizing healthy foods in your diet, not just banishing “bad” foods, may be the key to avoiding heart attack and stroke, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed the eating habits of 15,000 people from 39 countries with an average age of 67 worldwide with heart disease and found results that might surprise you.

“Eating a healthy diet seems to have protective effects, but unhealthy foods don’t seem to cause any harm,” said lead researcher Dr. Ralph Stewart, a cardiologist at Auckland City Hospital in New Zealand, medicalxpress reported.

Nutritionists didn’t agree with the latter notion, however, stressing that more research is definitely needed.

The new study found that for every 100 people eating the healthful, Mediterranean-style diet, three fewer heart attacks, strokes or deaths occurred, compared with the same number of adults eating the so-called western diet, the study found.

A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods.

“Traditionally, dietary advice has focused on avoiding unhealthy foods, but in terms of reducing risk, it’s probably increasing more healthy foods rather than avoiding unhealthy foods,” he said. “It’s a lack of healthy foods in many people’s diets that’s the problem, not so much eating unhealthy foods.”

However, unhealthy foods do increase the risk for obesity, especially in youth, and obesity is a major cause of health problems, Stewart said.

The report was published April 25 in the European Heart Journal.

Participants were asked how many times a week they ate foods such as meat, fish, dairy, whole grains or refined grains, vegetables, fruit, desserts, sweets, sugary drinks, deep-fried foods and alcohol.

After nearly four years of follow-up, about 7% of those with the highest scores of adhering to a Mediterranean diet suffered a heart attack or stroke or died, compared with almost 11% of those who scored the lowest on following that healthy diet, researchers found.

However, Stewart said no evidence of harm was seen from modest amounts of unhealthy foods, such as deep-fried foods, sugars and desserts.