How to eat for a healthy heart

Credit: Unsplash+

National Nutrition Month offers a golden opportunity to delve into heart-friendly eating approaches and habits, providing the chance to unlock the potential of food to boost cardiovascular health.

The Canadian Cardiovascular Society recommends three dietary patterns, the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet, and the Portfolio Diet, to mitigate heart disease risks.

These diets emphasize plant-based, nutrient-dense foods known to offer several health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Dietary Approaches:

Mediterranean Diet: This diet is rich in colorful vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and seafood, and has been scientifically shown to reduce the risk of heart-related illnesses, even for those already having heart disease.

DASH Diet: Initially created to treat high blood pressure, the DASH diet focuses on abundant intake of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and nuts, while limiting red and processed meats, added sugars, and sodium. It is beneficial in lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels and provides other health benefits.

Portfolio Diet: Developed in Canada, it emphasizes plant proteins, nuts, viscous fiber sources like oats and barley, plant sterols, and healthy oils, and has been proven effective in lowering LDL-C cholesterol and providing other health benefits.

Strategies to Unlock the Power of Food:

Master and Conquer the 90 per cent Goal: Choosing a manageable goal, such as substituting animal protein with plant protein for one meal a week, can build confidence and pave the way for achieving more substantial goals in the future.

Substitution over Restriction: Rather than eliminating, substituting healthier alternatives, like opting for lower-sodium soup or reducing starch portions, can make the journey more attainable and enjoyable.

Set Value-Based Goals: Connecting dietary goals to personal values and immediate concerns can ensure sustained change and better motivation. For instance, preparing a meal with a loved one can combine dietary improvements with relational values.

Importance of Professional Guidance:

For tailored advice and structured plans, working with nutrition professionals such as registered dietitians and psychologists is recommended.

They can provide informed choices and plans customized to individual needs, preferences, and capacities, making the transition smoother and more sustainable.

Plant-Based Emphasis:

A central theme across these dietary approaches is the importance of plant-based foods. However, adopting a plant-based diet does not necessarily entail complete avoidance of animal products.

Even moderate incorporations of plant-based foods can make a significant difference in heart disease risk.


National Nutrition Month with its theme for 2023, “Unlock the Potential of Food”, serves as a reminder of the transformative power of food in promoting heart health.

By adopting heart-friendly dietary patterns like the Mediterranean, DASH, and Portfolio diets and integrating manageable and value-based goals, individuals can significantly improve their cardiovascular health.

Professional guidance and a focus on plant-based, nutrient-dense foods can aid in sustaining these healthy changes, unlocking the true potential of food in fostering a heart-healthy life.

Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.

Copyright © 2023 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.