If I were to design the ideal meal plan for a healthy heart, much evidence suggests it would be the Peach-Mediterranean diet with integrated daily intermittent fasting, a group of doctors said this week.
It’s still the plant-rich, olive oil-lubricated Mediterranean diet that most people are familiar with, but with a greater emphasis on seafood as the primary source of animal protein.
This style of eating has many benefits, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health and long-term longevity, the authors wrote in a review of studies, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
It also solves the “omnivore dilemma”
It’s not the “junkie” Western diet rich in processed meat, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat, said Dr. James O’Keefe, lead author of the article and director of preventive cardiology at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
Vegan diets can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also lead to weak bones and muscles or anemia, he noted.
Enter the Pesco-Mediterranean diet, which O’Keefe himself follows.
“It’s filling, it’s enjoyable, it’s delicious and it’s super healthy,” O’Keefe told TODAY.
When it came to adding intermittent fasting to the mix, he and his colleagues felt that “the science is solid enough now that we can approve it as a healthy thing to do,” he said.
The traditional Mediterranean style of food – which has been called the “gold standard for cardiovascular health” – is primarily a plant-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts. Olive oil is the main source of fat, while very few red and processed meats are consumed.
Many randomized trials and clinical trials have found that this diet is associated with lower risks of dying prematurely from heart disease or developing coronary heart disease, the authors noted.
The diet should include three or more servings of vegetables and two or more servings of fruit per day.
Fish and seafood
A seafood diet – the “Peach” part of the meal plan approved by this document – is still a diet rich in plants, but with seafood as the main source of meat. Fish is a high quality protein that is satiating and helps build muscle and bone mass. Provides vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that may be missing in vegetarian or vegan diets.
Regular fish intake has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk, “so we felt it deserved a certain spot in the title,” O’Keefe said.
The goal is to eat fish at least three times a week. Choose low-mercury fish like salmon, sardines, trout, herring, and anchovies. Avoid charring or burning the fish during cooking, which can introduce carcinogenic compounds, the authors warn.
Fish is high in omega-3s, low in saturated fat, and moderate in calories, so it’s better than beef or chicken as a source of protein, agrees Lisa Young, a New York registered dietician and author of “Finally Full, Finally Lean.” .
The studies found that coronary heart disease mortality was 34 percent lower in fishermen than in regular meat eaters, the authors noted.
The liberal use of extra virgin olive oil is an important part of the Mediterranean diet. It is crucial to choose high-quality oil made from cold-pressed olives, a process that preserves their powerful antioxidants and creates a product equivalent to “pure olive juice,” the study noted.
The authors recommend consuming four or more tablespoons a day of EVOO, which can be used to dress salads or for light cooking.
“At our house, I can tell you that we don’t even think about limiting the amount of olive oil, we only use it as much as we want and spend about a liter a week – just my wife and I,” O ‘Keefe said.
But Young cautioned not to overdo the elixir for most people.
“You can’t add a bottle of olive oil to the typical American diet,” Young cautioned. “If you’re eating whole cheese, some meat, fried foods and croutons, you don’t want to pour a bottle of olive oil over it.”
Eggs and dairy products
The Peach-Mediterranean diet allows for the consumption of eggs, but preferably no more than five egg yolks per week, although there are no limits to egg whites. Plus, it cautiously allows low-fat fermented versions of dairy products, including yogurt, kefir, and soft cheeses.
Nuts and legumes
Walnuts, which are rich in unsaturated fat, fiber, protein and nutrients, are “one of the most effective foods for improving long-term health outcomes,” the study noted. They fill up in a way that doesn’t promote weight gain. Young recommended swapping a chocolate bar or other typical afternoon snack for a handful of nuts.
Consumption of 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 many legumes including chickpeas, lentils, and split peas.
Choose one 1-ounce serving of nuts per day and three or more servings of legumes per week.
The main drink of this diet is water, still, sparkling or used to make tea or coffee. It can be flavored but not sweetened. Dry red wine is allowed with caution: one glass per day for women and up to two glasses for men, consumed with meals.
“Most Americans eat from the time they get up until they go to bed,” O’Keefe 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, largely done during sleep and which can be extended to 16 hours per day, appears to improve cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure, the study noted.