A very-low-fat plant-based diet or vegetarian diet may be too restrictive for some
of us to follow. If so, Mediterranean, mixed, and balanced diets should be considered
as a good alternative that is easier to adhered to. Mixed and balanced diets
are healthier variations of the typical diets consumed in the U.S. and other wealthy
developed countries. They include fat in the diet, but in the form of healthier
polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, saturated and trans-fats remain restricted.
Because they also allow a wider variety of foods than many diets, they are
considered to be easier to adhere to.
Mediterranean eating improves cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, and the metabolic
syndrome. Foods that are emphasized include vegetables, fruits, nuts and
seeds, beans and legumes, olive oil, selective dairy, whole grains, often fish and other
seafood, limited consumption of meat, and sometimes consumption of moderate
amounts of alcohol in the form of wine. The Nurses’ Health Study found that replacing
5% of calories from saturated fat with calories from unsaturated fat reduced
the risk of coronary heart disease by 42%. A meta-analysis of multiple such
studies found a 10% reduction in coronary heart disease for every 5% substitution
of unsaturated for saturated fats.
A study found that high Mediterranean diet intake was associated with approximately
a one-fourth relative risk reduction in CVD events compared to low Mediterranean
diet intake. The factors contributing to reduced risk included biomarkers
of inflammation, glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, body mass index,
blood pressure, and blood lipids. Adopting a Mediterranean diet has been found to
reduce the risk of heart attacks, but probably not as much as the results reported
Mixed and balanced diets, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
(DASH) diet, are diets modified to conform with authoritative dietary guidelines
for healthier diets, such as the Dietary Reference Intakes of the Institute of Medicine,
the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Dietary Recommendations of
the World Health Organization. These authorities generally recommend an emphasis
on plant-based foods and increasing the number of servings of fruits to two
cups/day for a 2400 calorie diet, and vegetables to three cups/day for a 2400 calorie
diet. A 2013 survey found that fewer than 15% of U.S. citizens had the recommended
fruit intake, and 8.9% met the recommendations for vegetables.
Regardless of which dietary pattern is chosen, it is important that lower saturated
fatty acid consumption, for example from eating less red meat, be accompanied
by increased consumption of healthy fats and higher-fiber whole plant foods rather
than increasing consumption of refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars.
Foods that are consistent with this recipe for cardioprotective cholesterol-lowering
healthy eating include oats, barley, other whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, all
fruits, and soy foods.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel