The Best Foods for a Heart-Healthy Diet – Pittsburgh Magazine

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A colorful plate is a heart-healthy plate.

So says Dr. Indu G. Poornima, the director of the Women’s Heart Center and Preventive Cardiology at Allegheny Health Network. A heart-healthy diet focuses on multiple nutrients, rather than specific foods, she says.

Those who have had a cardiovascular event or simply want to maintain their heart health should focus on macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat. The Mediterranean diet, which incorporates these as well as fruits and vegetables and plant protein rather than animal protein, is ideal, she says.

“There is certainly not one single component of the diet which is more important than the others,” she says. “It’s really a combination of things that are important.”

Plant protein includes nuts and legumes such as lentils or black beans, which contain healthy fats and a lot of fiber.

“There’s plenty of studies showing that a high-fiber diet actually reduces cardiovascular events,” Poornima says.

The inclusion of eggs in a heart-healthy diet is often debated, but Poornima says they do have healthy protein.

“I don’t think we should really take eggs off the heart-healthy plate,” as long as they’re consumed in moderation and not fried or cooked with a lot of butter, she says.

The health benefits of red wine are also debated, but Poornima says wine is not as wise of a choice. While red wine may increase people’s HDL, or good cholesterol, levels, it’s hard to know if that’s because of the wine itself or because of other things that wine consumers, typically in the Mediterranean region, consume, such as those legumes and high-fiber fruits and vegetables.

“We’ve sort of concluded that alcohol in general is not beneficial to the heart,” she says.

A common problem she sees is patients consuming a highly processed diet.

“I would say the biggest challenge is getting people to move from processed food to freshly cooked food,” she says. “That is definitely a challenge, but I think the more conversations we have about it, and the more that is available out there that is fresh, and learning to cook that in an easy way, hopefully we can make that change.”

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