Study Finds Higher Risk of Heart Disease Associated with Diet Low in 6 Important Foods

by Lochlan

Recently, a new study that looks more closely at the connection between food and heart disease was released. The medical profession is welcoming this new information with open arms because cardiovascular disease is the nation’s biggest cause of death.

Researchers were able to identify six important food groups—one of which may surprise you—that, if absent from the diet, are associated with an elevated risk of heart disease using the data from this study. These are the results of the extensive, long-term study, which include which foods should be consumed on a regular basis to lower the risk of heart disease and the reasons behind the potential significance of each food for heart health.

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Results of a Nutrition Study

The research team integrated the findings from six other studies for the study, which was published in July 2023 in the European Heart Journal: two standardized case-control studies, one randomized control trial, three prospective studies, and one epidemiological cohort study. Over 240,000 participants from 80 countries across six continents provided 20 years of data throughout the extensive data collecting period, which ran from 1999 to 2019.

The participants’ backgrounds, lifestyles, and genetic make-ups were diverse. Food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) were utilized by researchers to gather data on participants’ eating habits. A healthy diet score was then developed by meta-analyzing this data.

Six foods were shown to be associated with a lower incidence of cardiac events when ingested in sufficient quantities, as determined by the diet score that assessed the individuals’ overall dietary health. A heart disease diagnosis, a stroke, a heart attack, heart failure, and overall death were among these occurrences.

It was discovered that six food categories—fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seafood, and full-fat dairy—were protective against these occurrences. The researchers even identified the following amounts based on their data that would result in the best outcomes for heart health:

  • Fruit: two to three portions of one cup per day
  • Vegetables: Two to three servings of one cup per day
  • Legumes: Each week, three to four half-cup portions
  • Nuts: Each week, seven one-ounce portions
  • Fish: Two to three portions of three ounces each week
  • Dairy: One cup of milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces of cheese, or 14 servings per week

The majority of these foods have been demonstrated to be heart health protective in the past by evidence-based eating plans such as the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), but the addition of full-fat dairy is a bit of a novel idea (more on this in a moment).

But what is it about these six foods that makes them unique in terms of heart health outcomes?

How the Following 6 Foods Help Heart Health:

  1. Fruits

Fruit provides such a vital, not to mention significant, diversity of nutrients that are beneficial to heart health. All of the micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and plant components, are included in this. Plant-based substances are particularly helpful in maintaining heart health because they help lower systemic inflammation, which can cause cardiac sickness if left unchecked. Furthermore, fruit is a great way to get fiber. In addition to improving gut and digestive health, soluble fiber in food actually binds to cholesterol in the small intestine, assisting the body in eliminating it rather than allowing it to enter the bloodstream. Long-term high cholesterol can aggravate atherosclerosis, or plaque accumulation on vein and artery walls, which is traditionally linked to heart disease.

  1. Greens

Vegetables have many of the same heart-healthy benefits as fruits, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals. Many vegetables (as well as other plant-based foods) include specific vitamins and minerals that are particularly good for heart health. These support the maintenance of normal cardiac rhythms and include the primary electrolytes: phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and chloride. In addition, other micronutrients—like potassium and lowered blood pressure, for instance—have been connected to improvements in particular heart disease-related illnesses.

  1. Vegetables

Legumes provide many of the same heart-healthy nutrients as fruits and vegetables, without sounding like a broken record. But the protein they have is what makes them unique. In addition to being a vital source of energy, protein continuously aids in the development and maintenance of healthy tissues, such as muscles, organs, and blood cells, among many other tissues. We are able to participate in daily activities like exercise that are essential to maintaining our health and preventing chronic illnesses like heart disease by promoting the health of these important body components.

  1. Nuts

Nuts (and seeds) contribute healthy fats to the diet in addition to the nutrients that have already been mentioned above: vitamins, minerals, plant compounds, fiber, and protein. Nuts are a fantastic source of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats that lower inflammation throughout the body, promote a healthy heart rhythm, and lower cholesterol levels.

  1. Fish

Since fish and seafood are excellent sources of lean protein, vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats, eating more of them has become a regular heart health suggestion. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly abundant in fatty fish, such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and salmon. Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, which enhance blood vessel flexibility, lower triglyceride levels, preserve regular cardiac rhythms, and promote appropriate blood pressure levels, they are beneficial to heart health.

  1. Dairy Products with Fat

Perhaps the addition of full-fat dairy is a bigger wild card on this list. Over the years, many medical specialists have believed that dairy, particularly full-fat kinds, may be linked to heart disease. This is mainly because it contains cholesterol from the diet and saturated fat. But studies are beginning to show that the link between various kinds of fat and heart disease may not be as strong as previously believed. This may contribute to the study’s finding that, when ingested in moderation, full-fat dairy is associated with improved heart health. When it comes to heart health benefits, fermented full-fat dairy products such as kefir, yogurt, some types of cottage cheese, and farmer’s cheese offer an even stronger advantage. Some of the saturated fat in milk is transformed into heart-healthy, unsaturated fats during the fermentation process used to make these products. Furthermore, studies indicate that replacing foods high in carbohydrates with lower fat content does not lower our risk of heart disease, but replacing high fat diets with lower fat contents did.

How Does This Affect You?

What is the main takeaway from this? Do you have to start consuming these six essential meals in the precise proportions that the study indicated? If you adhere to the dietary guidelines these researchers found, will you be immune to heart disease?

Simply put, no. While many of the study’s conclusions are not particularly novel, it does provide insightful information about dietary modifications that may prevent heart disease (namely the consumption of full-fat dairy). For many years, we have been aware that eating a diet higher in plant-based foods and fatty fish has positive effects on heart health. Having said that, more proof is always helpful in informing, enabling, and inspiring people to choose a diet that is heart-healthy.

Causation vs. Correlation

It is crucial to remember that this study presents correlations and observations rather than conclusions about causes and effects. This means that including these six heart-healthy items in your diet, even in the recommended amounts, does not ensure that you will never be diagnosed with heart disease. It does, however, indicate that eating a varied and well-balanced diet will significantly lower your chance of contracting heart disease or any other type of chronic illness. Furthermore, stress reduction and exercise are equally important factors to consider in addition to food.

In the end, this extensive study provides us with yet another useful reminder to prioritize nutrient-dense foods and variety in our daily lives in order to reduce our risk of heart disease. In addition to making us feel energised and capable in our daily lives, this diet also has the amazing bonus of preventing a number of other chronic ailments.