Not only does being overweight put you at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke, but a heart healthy diet can help you lose weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure. According to US News and 35 experts who rated various heart healthy diets, these are the top five:
- The DASH Diet – The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension program is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to do exactly that: stop (or prevent) hypertension, aka high blood pressure. It emphasizes the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), which are high in blood pressure-reducing nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber. DASH also discourages foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods and tropical oils, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Following DASH also means no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which followers will eventually lower to about 1,500 milligrams. DASH Diet is balanced and can be followed long term.
- The Mediterranean Diet – It’s generally accepted that people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular disease. The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control, and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods. The Mediterranean Diet may offer a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control. By following the Mediterranean Diet, you could also keep that weight off while avoiding chronic disease.
- The Ornish Diet – Created in 1977 by Dr. Dean Ornish – a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the diet was designed to help people “feel better, live longer, lose weight and gain health.” The diet is low in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein, which Ornish says makes it the ideal diet. But it’s not just a diet: It also emphasizes exercise, stress management and relationships.
- The Flexitarian Diet – Flexitarian is a combination of two words: flexible and vegetarian. The term was coined more than a decade ago by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. According to Blatner, you don’t have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism – you can be a vegetarian most of the time, but still enjoy a burger or steak when the urge hits. By eating more plants and less meat, it’s suggested that those who follow this diet will not only lose weight but can improve their overall health, lowering their rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and live longer as a result.
- The TLC Diet – The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet was created by the National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program with the goal of cutting cholesterol as part of a heart-healthy eating regimen. It calls for eating plenty of veggies, fruits, breads, cereals and pasta and lean meats. The guidelines are broad enough that you’ll have a lot of latitude with what you eat.