What Is the Best Heart-Health Diet?
Lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke and achieve a healthy weight by adopting my heart-smart Pan-Asian Mediterranean diet
If you want to achieve optimal heart health—and promote overall health and well-being—a high-fiber, healthy-fat, Mediterranean-type diet is absolutely essential. I was a proponent of the modified Mediterranean diet for years—even before it became fairly mainstream among heart-health experts. However, after a great deal of research, I now believe that combining the eating habits of Mediterranean cultures with traditional Asian cuisine offers the best overall diet for heart health, reducing your risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Both diets emphasize fish and vegetables and eliminate saturated and hydrogenated fats. The Pan-Asian diet adds fermented soy foods and seaweed—both of which boost heart health and overall health.
I call this updated approach to heart-healthy eating the Pan-Asian Mediterranean diet or PAM diet. It includes fresh fruits and vegetables in season, fish, and whole grains. Meat is used sparingly, often just enough for flavoring. Meals are based on numerous small portions for lots of variety, and the lightest meal is at the end of the day, when the body is quieter and the metabolism slower.
PAM Eating Rules
My heart-healthy PAM eating plan includes 45 to 50 percent slow-burning, low-glycemic index carbohydrates; 30 percent healthy fats; and 20 to 25 percent protein. I’d also urge you to eat organic as much as possible. In short, here are some guidelines:
Increase your intake of:
- Oatmeal and complex carbohydrate pastas, such as those made with whole wheat, spelt, or Jerusalem artichoke
- Slow-burning, low-glycemic index vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and spinach
- Legumes, such as lentils, soybeans, and chickpeas (these contain folic acid, and they help lower insulin levels)
- Onions and garlic (these contain allicin, which helps lower cholesterol levels)
- Fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and basil
- Fruits, such as cherries, peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, apricots, pears, and apples (melons, grapes, and kiwi are suitable, but they contain more sugar)
- Sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and protein, such as cold-water fish and organic eggs
- Soy products, such as tofu, soybeans, tempeh, and soy milk
- Fish, especially fatty ones, such as salmon
- Healthy fats, such as olive, sesame, walnut, avocado, and flax oils
- Nuts and seeds, including walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, and flaxseed
- Low-fat cottage cheese, feta cheese, and grated Parmesan
Decrease your intake of:
- Foods containing refined white flour or sugar, such as breads and bagels
- Partially hydrogenated oils, found in commercially prepared crackers, cookies, chips, and other snacks
- Starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, and carrots
- Canned vegetables, because they’re usually very high in sodium
- Processed fruit juices, which are often loaded with sugars
- Red meats and organ meats
- Omega-6 oils, such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and canola
- Full-fat dairy products, including whole milk and many cheeses
More of My Advice on Eating for Heart Health According to the PAM Diet
To get further details concerning the specific food categories in the PAM diet—including the number of servings you should be eating per category and typical serving sizes—check out the following links.
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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