Want to improve your health health? Three foods, olive oil, nuts and fish can reduce one's risk of heart disease by as much as 30%. The trick is to eat like a Greek or an Italian, according to a new study released yesterday by the New England Journal of Medicine (Feb. 25).
The five-year study showed that by adding three foods, extra-virgin olive oil, mixed nuts and fish to one’s diet, heart disease risk is reduced by one third. The overall message is to think of healthy fats as your friend for heart health, not your enemy. The control group in the study ate low-fat foods and after five years there were no notable improvements in their heart-disease risk.
The large study involving 7447 participants, age 55-80, was so successful that the researchers stopped the study early. What is even more amazing about the results is that not all the participants were exceptionally healthy. Though none had heart disease when they enrolled, some had type-2 diabetes or at least three major risk factors including smoking, hypertension, elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL), low high-density protein (HDL), overweight or obese, or had a family history of heart disease.
So what did they eat? Participants in the two Mediterranean-diet groups received either extra-virgin olive oil (approximately 1 liter per week) or 30 g of mixed nuts per day (15 g of walnuts, 7.5 g of hazelnuts, and 7.5 g of almonds). Calorie restriction was not advised, but certain sugary and highly processed foods were discouraged (see below). The control group ate a reduced-fat diet that included low-fat dairy, bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean fish and seafood.
The message, healthy fats are good for your heart. Not all fats, like those in processed foods, just healthy fats in nuts, olive oil and fish. In addition to the nuts and olive oil, the study group ate the following every day/week during the five-year study:
- Extra-virgin olive oil 4 Tablespoons/day
- Tree nuts and peanuts 3 servings/week
- Fresh fruits 3 servings/day
- Vegetables 2 servings/day
- Fish/seafood (fatty fish*) 3 servings/week
- Legumes 3 servings/week
- White meat Instead of red meat
- Wine with meals (optional) 7 glasses/week
Commercial bakery good, sweets, pastries
Red and processed meats
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