No ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ foods: 10 eating ‘patterns’ to prevent heart disease, death – MarketWatch
Looks like we’ve been talking about healthy eating all wrong.
The American Heart Association released a new scientific statement on Tuesday that encourages everyone to focus on their overall dietary “patterns” to take care of their tickers, rather than zeroing in on foods, ingredients and drinks that are “good” or “bad” for their hearts.
The full “2021 Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health” was published in the Association’s flagship journal Circulation on Tuesday. And this more modern approach to nutrition is intended to adapt more easily to different cultural traditions, individual likes and dislikes, as well as societal issues such as whether most meals are made and eaten at home, or picked up on-the-go while people are at work or school.
““It does not need to be complicated, time consuming, expensive or unappealing.””
“We can all benefit from a heart-healthy dietary pattern regardless of stage of life, and it is possible to design one that is consistent with personal preferences, lifestyles and cultural customs,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, the chair of the scientific statement writing group, in a statement.
“It does not need to be complicated, time consuming, expensive or unappealing,” added Lichtenstein, who is the director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.
She concedes that adopting heart-healthy eating habits such as choosing the fish entrée over the steak at a restaurant, or opting for brown rice instead of fried white rice from your favorite Chinese takeout joint, may feel strange at first. “It might take a little planning, however, after the first few times it can become routine,” she said.
Here’s the American Heart Association’s 10 steps for a dietary pattern to promote heart health:
Balance food and calorie intake with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.
Choose a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and eat plenty of produce, to get a full range of nutrients from food — rather than from supplements.
And now for the first time, the AHA is highlighting challenges such as societal factors that can make it tougher for people to learn or maintain healthy eating patterns. For example, about 2.3 million Americans live in food deserts more than one mile away from a supermarket and do not own a car, according to federal data, making it difficult to shop for more nutritious and less processed foods. The COVID-19 pandemic also saw more people ordering takeout from home — and, conversely, dining out spiked as bars and restaurants have reopened in some areas.
The AHA highlighted the following societal challenges that can make it harder to start or maintain a heart-healthy eating pattern:
Widespread dietary misinformation from the internet.
A lack of nutrition education in grade schools and medical schools.
Food and nutrition insecurity — according to references cited in the statement, an estimated 37 million Americans had limited or unstable access to safe and nutritious foods in 2020.
Structural racism and neighborhood segregation, whereby many communities with a higher proportion of racial and ethnic diversity have few grocery stores but many fast-food outlets.
Targeted marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds through tailored advertising efforts and sponsorship of events and organizations in those communities.
The guidance recommends public health action and policy changes to address these barriers, calling it “a public imperative.”
The AHA statement also notes that this heart-healthy eating pattern is good for the environment. Popular animal products, particularly red meat (beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison or goat), have the largest environmental impact in terms of water and land usage, and contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, compared with plant-based foods. “It is important to recognize that the guidance is consistent not only with heart health but also sustainability — it is a win-win for individuals and our environment,” said Lichtenstein.