Not only does being overweight put people at 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 Ornish Diet – This strict plan has ranked number 1 for heart health for five consecutive years. Dieters adhere to a very strict regimen: Only 10 percent of calories can come from fat, very little of it saturated, and most foods with any cholesterol or refined carbohydrates, oils, excessive caffeine and nearly all animal products are forbidden. Research suggests the Ornish diet in conjunction with stress-management techniques, exercise and social support, could actually reverse heart disease.
- The TLC Diet – The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program, claims to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent in just six weeks. In one Journal of Lipid Research study, participants who shifted from a typical American diet to the TLC diet reduced their LDL cholesterol by 11 percent after 32 days.
- The DASH Diet – The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension program (DASH) was created to help control high blood pressure – and its effects on that marker of cardiovascular health have been extensively studied. If you adopt the diet, you’ll focus on eating the heart-healthy foods we all recognize: fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, while avoiding those more tempting foods like calorie-rich sweets and fat-laden red meat.
- The Mediterranean Diet – It’s all the rage and what’s not to love? The Mediterranean Diet has been associated with a decreased risk for heart disease, and it’s also been shown to reduce blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Since the Mediterranean approach largely avoids saturated fat (which contributes to high cholesterol), and includes healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats in moderation (which can reduce cholesterol), your heart will thank you.
- Engine 2 Diet – This low-fat, “plant strong” diet was created by Rip Esselstyn, a firefighter, former professional athlete and medical scion. It’s thought to prevent and often reverse diseases, like heart disease, caused by the so-called Standard American Diet and should also help keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check. If you adopt the Engine 2 Diet, you’ll load up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and eliminate all animal products, processed foods and vegetable oils from your diet.