Why the Mediterranean diet PLUS intermittent fasting is the ideal plan for heart health – 7NEWS.com.au

Sep, 20th 2020 3:56 pm, Article Recommended by Dr. J. Smith

If you were to design the ideal eating plan for a healthy heart, plenty of evidence suggests it would be the Pesco-Mediterranean diet with daily intermittent fasting built in, a group of doctors declared this week.

Its still the plant-rich, olive oil-lubricated Mediterranean diet most people are familiar with - but with more emphasis on seafood as the main source of animal protein.

This style of eating has many benefits, especially when it comes to long-term cardiovascular health and longevity, the authors wrote in a review of studies, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

It also solves the omnivores dilemma.

When you can eat anything - like humans can - what do you choose thats good for you, but also tasty and sustainable for the long-term?

Dr James OKeefe is the lead author of the paper and director of preventive cardiology at Saint Lukes Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

He notes that while vegan diets can reduce cardiovascular disease risk, they can also lead to weak bones and muscles or anemia - which is why he himself follows the Pesco-Mediterranean diet.

Its is satiating, its enjoyable, its delicious and its super healthy, OKeefe said.

When it came to adding intermittent fasting into the mix, he and his colleagues felt the science is robust enough now that we can endorse that as a healthy thing to do.

The traditional Mediterranean eating style - which has been called the gold standard for cardiovascular health - is primarily a plant-rich diet that incorporates lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts.

Olive oil serves the main fat source, while very few red and processed meats are consumed.

In the video below: How to follow the Mediterranean diet in two minutes

Many studies and randomised clinical trials have found this diet to be associated with lower risks for dying of heart disease or developing coronary heart disease.

The diet should include three or more servings of vegetables and two or more servings of fruit a day.

A pescatarian diet - the Pesco part of the eating plan endorsed by this paper - is still a plant-rich diet, but with seafood as the main source of meat.

Fish is a high-quality protein thats satiating, and helps build muscle and bone mass.

It provides vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that can be missing in vegetarian or vegan diets.

Regular intake of fish has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk.

The goal is to eat seafood at least three times a week.

Choose low-mercury fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, herring and anchovies.

Avoid charring or burning fish while cooking, which can introduce carcinogenic compounds, the authors cautioned.

Fish is high in omega-3s, low in saturated fat and moderate in calories, so its better than beef or chicken as a protein source, agreed Lisa Young, a registered dietitian in New York and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.

Studies have also found mortality from coronary artery disease was 34 per cent lower in pescatarians compared to regular meat-eaters.

Liberal use of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is an important part of the Mediterranean diet.

Its crucial to choose high-quality oil made from cold pressing olives, a process that retains their potent antioxidants and creates a product equivalent to pure olive juice, the study noted.

The authors recommended consuming four or more tablespoons a day of EVOO, which can be used to dress salads or for light cooking.

At our household, I can tell you we do not even think about limiting the amount of olive oil, we just use it as much as we want and we go through about a litre a week - just my wife and I, OKeefe said.

But Young cautioned against going overboard with the elixir for most people.

You cant add a bottle of olive oil to the typical American diet, Young cautioned.

If youre having full-fat cheese, some meat, fried foods and croutons, you dont want to pour a bottle of olive oil on top of that.

The Pesco-Mediterranean diet allows consumption of eggs, but preferably no more than five yolks per week - though theres no limit on egg whites.

It also cautiously allows fermented low-fat versions of dairy, including yogurt, kefir and soft cheeses.

Nuts, which are packed with unsaturated fats, fibre, protein and nutrients, are one of the most effective foods for improving long-term health outcomes, the study noted.

Theyre filling so they dont promote weight gain.

Young advised swapping a candy bar or another typical afternoon snack for a handful of nuts.

Eating legumes has been linked to improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Young recommended eating a variety of both foods to capture the most nutrients: mixed nuts, and lots of legumes including chickpeas, lentils and split peas.

Go for one 30 gram serving of nuts a day, and three or more servings of legumes a week.

The staple beverage of this diet is water - either still, carbonated or used to make tea or coffee.

It can be flavoured but not sweetened.

Dry red wine is cautiously allowed: one glass a day for women, and up to two glasses for men, consumed with meals.

Most Americans eat from the moment they get up to the moment they go to bed, OKeefe said.

But when we give our body a break from digesting food, it tends to be good for it.

A daily fast of at least 12 hours, much of it done while sleeping and which can be extended to 16 hours a day, appears to enhance cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure, the study noted.

Why the Mediterranean diet PLUS intermittent fasting is the ideal plan for heart health - 7NEWS.com.au