Consider the whole diet (the variety and amount of foods eaten regularly) instead of focusing on specific foods, according to the American Heart Association. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Healthy eating habits are not enough to promote heart health, warn recently released guidelines from the influential American Heart Association: we must also be able to incorporate them into our lives in a sustainable way.

The AHA therefore distances itself from popular diets with strict stipulations – which may impose a modification of the diet so radical that it will be almost unbearable – to instead put forward ten new habits to adopt gradually, as and when. as the opportunity arises.

The American group thus suggests promoting heart health by combining a healthy diet and physical activity; by obtaining the majority of nutrients from the diet rather than from supplements; by consuming whole grains; by reducing the consumption of salt, added sugar and alcohol; and by favoring barely processed foods over ultra-processed foods.

These recommendations, it is added, can be tailored to suit personal food preferences and cultural traditions, or whether the majority of meals are eaten at home or away from home. They reflect the most recent scientific knowledge which testifies to a strong association between the quality of the diet and the health of the heart, underlines the medical group.

Most important, the AHA said, is to make changes that will be sustainable over the long term, tackling one change at a time and focusing on “what works for you.” We suggest, for example, to choose options that are reduced in fat or salt when they are available, or to gradually become familiar with the ingredients of the foods we buy regularly.

Consider the whole diet (the variety and amount of foods eaten regularly) instead of focusing on specific foods, according to the AHA.

“The main recommendations are to make small changes, gradual changes, but changes in people’s diet that will be sustainable, that they will be able to maintain in the long term,” summarized Professor Benoît Arsenault, of Laval University’s Institute for Nutrition and Functional Foods.

Popular diets that promise rapid and lasting weight loss will only partially keep their word, he recalls: if some followers actually manage to lose a few pounds, in the long run the weight will return to its starting point and may even surpass it. . This fluctuation can then increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

These diets can, for example, greatly restrict the period during which one can eat in a day or even completely eliminate certain foods, which can be very difficult to put into practice in the long term.

“(We must) try to eat a diet that comes as close as possible to the recommendations, for example those of Canada’s Food Guide which specifies to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, to drink more water than sugary drinks, eat more plant proteins or that come from lean meats, eat more fiber and whole grain products, ”said Mr. Arsenault.

It’s not easy for everyone to change their diet, he acknowledged, especially in a food environment where ultra-processed foods take over.

The AHA’s new strategy looks a bit like the one adopted a few years ago to promote physical activity.

When we realized that the sermon “at least three times a week, 30 minutes each time” had the pernicious effect of discouraging the population, we instead began to suggest incorporating physical activity into everyday life, for example using the stairs or getting off the bus one stop earlier.


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