Food for Thought: Clearing Up the Heart Health Hype


Given the increasing media attention to certain fad diets and foods that are promoted for cardiovascular health, researchers from the nonprofit Physicians Committee went about the task of reviewing the latest research behind popular food trends to see whether these foods live up to the hype. The authors of the study Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, Andrew Freeman, MD, Pamela Morris, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, Dean Ornish, MD, and Kim Williams, MD, reviewed research relating to the cardiovascular benefits and harms of certain foods and diets; the paper, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, summarizes which foods should be consumed often, which are acceptable in moderation, and which should be avoided entirely.  

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The Figure below represents the foods and diets covered by the study and which category they fit based on available evidence. In general, the team recommends whole food, plant-based eating patterns for optimal cardiovascular health.

"In addition to eating colorful, plant-based foods, it's important to make time for sleep, exercise, and stress management, which could come in the form of social support or even listening to music," says Dr. Barnard. "Diet comes first, but what we eat should fuel a healthy lifestyle."