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Can Versatile Eating Habits Support Heart Health? Experts Weigh In

By: The HumanN Editorial Team 

A 2020 study from  the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health showed a connection between following a variety of healthy eating patterns to support heart health. Experts weigh in on the study, sharing their own perspectives on what the findings could mean for how we view nutrition.



“What was interesting is that the diets they studied were very plant based. And when I say that, I don’t mean vegan or vegetarian, I simply mean that they contain a lot of plant foods. Whether it’s legumes, fruits, vegetables. And even though the eating patterns differed. The takeaway is establishing a healthy dietary pattern that works for you, your preferences and aligns with your culture.” – Jennifer Fleming, PhD, MS, RD, LDN

“This study points to an important aspect of nutrition, which is the quality of your food sources. In many cases, quality matters more than the percentage of macronutrients in your diet. Take a high-carbohydrate diet for example. On the surface, a high-carbohydrate diet would seem problematic. However, if the carbohydrates are coming from healthy sources like whole grains, vegetable, fruits and legumes, while avoiding simple sugary foods, sweetened beverages and refined grains, a high carbohydrate diet can be quite healthy. This study does have limitations in that it is a self-report, meaning the subjects had to remember what they ate at each meal and remain diligent about reporting it. The study also focused on health professionals within a socio-economic status, which is limiting because the general population may not have access to healthy food sources and may not possess a high degree of nutritional knowledge. Generally, it’s nice this study is out there, because the quality of food is important. Forget about fancy diets. Focus on the quality, portion sizes, and tie your nutrition to a comprehensive wellness practice for best results.” –Dr. Ivy, PhD


“I am a firm believer in the saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ This phrase actually goes back to what Archbishop Thomas Cranmer wrote in 1549. Recently, in JAMA, an article was published. The article was called ‘Association Between Healthy Eating Patterns and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.’As would be expected, the study reinforced the idea that  various healthy eating patterns were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. What is impressive about this study is the fact it is based on the results of 32 years of follow-up. The diets were varied and included Healthy Eating Index–2015 (HEI-2015), Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score (AMED), Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index (HPDI), and Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI).  Although these diets diverge a bit, they have many similarities. The findings also showed that these different healthy eating patterns were similarly effective at lowering CVD risk across racial and ethnic groups and other subgroups studied. They were statistically significantly associated with lower risk of both coronary heart disease and stroke. Although not specifically mentioned in the article, one might be able to extrapolate from these results that there may be a broader health benefit as far as neuro degenerative and other age-related degenerative diseases are concerned. These disease processes have many similar etiologies. Only time and more study will tell. Lastly, to obtain even more benefits from these various diets one should consider additional supplements which have known benefits to the cardiovascular system.” – Dr. Joseph Purita, M.D.

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