What Is the Best Heart-Healthy Diet Plan?

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Heart Health Principles
Last Reviewed 02/14/2014

What Is the Best Heart-Healthy Diet Plan?

Lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke and achieve a healthy weight by adopting  aheart-healthy diet plan like Dr. Sinatra's 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 heart-healthy diet plan is absolutely essential. I was a proponent of the modified Mediterranean diet for years—even before it became fairly mainstream among heart-healthy diet plan 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 minimize hydrogenated fats. The Pan-Asian diet adds fermented soy foods and seaweed—both of which boost heart health as well as overall health.

I call this updated approach to the heart-healthy diet plan the Pan-Asian Mediterranean diet or PAM diet. It includes fresh fruits and vegetables in season, fish and nuts. 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 diet 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:

  • Steel cut oatmeal 

  • 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  help lower insulin levels)

  • Onions and garlic (these contain sulfur derivatives and allicin, which help lower lipids and blood pressure)

  • 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 wild cold-water fish and organic eggs

  • Fermented soy products, such as tempeh

  • Fish, especially fatty ones like 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, pastas, 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, soy, and canola

  • Full-fat dairy products

More Dr. Sinatra Advice on a Heart-Healthy Diet Plan

To get further details concerning the specific food categories in the heart-healthy PAM diet plan—including the number of servings you should be eating per category and typical serving sizes—check out the following links.

The role poultry and meat play in the PAM Diet.

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