Heart-healthy eating starts with your habits, statement says | Today Headlines

Heart-healthy eating starts with your habits, statement says

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That doesn’t mean completely ditching take-out or that five-minute meal kit from the grocery store. Dietary advice encourages people to adapt these habits to their lifestyle.

The statement identifies 10 characteristics of heart-healthy eating habits – including tips for combining a balanced diet with exercise; consume most nutrients through food rather than supplements; eat whole grains; reduce the consumption of sodium, added sugar and alcohol; use non-tropical vegetable oils; and eat minimally processed foods rather than ultra-processed.

“What’s really important now is that people are making changes that can be sustainable in the long run,” said Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab at Tufts University and chair of the editorial group at Tufts University. new statement from AHA.

The statement writing group assessed the literature and devised 10 characteristics of heart-healthy eating patterns. The group also developed the guidelines, recognizing the need for sustainability and the societal challenges that can be obstacles to achieve good nutrition.

Lichtenstein said eating behaviors have changed since the AHA last issued a statement with dietary advice 15 years ago. Previously, the main options were to eat out or dine there, but eating habits have been less consistent in recent years. There has been a trend – exacerbated by the pandemic – of more ready-made options, such as delivery, meal kits and ready meals.

Make changes that go the distance

The goal of the new AHA guidelines, said Lichtenstein, is to do what works for you, no matter what dietary restrictions or cultural adaptations you want to make. Lichtenstein discourages people from making drastic changes based on fad diets. Instead, sustained efforts to incorporate these healthy habits may be more beneficial in the long run.

Lauri Wright, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, endorses this long-term mindset. Wright, who was not involved in the AHA statement, stressed the emphasis on developing lifestyle habits, regardless of a person’s age and background.

“When we talk about model or lifestyle, we’re not just talking about diet – something temporary,” Wright said. “It really is a lifestyle, and it can really adapt to all of your individualities.”

A heart-healthy way to eat may have other benefits, the release said, promoting more sustainable practices for the environment. This year marks the first time that the AHA guidelines have included sustainability. Lichtenstein said there is still room for research into plant-based alternatives, such as vegan animal products, which aren’t always the healthiest options. But generally, consuming more whole foods and less animal products can benefit both your health and the environment.

The statement also recognizes for the first time societal challenges, such as food insecurity, misinformation about diet and structural racism, all of which can affect a person’s diet and access to food. A 2020 Northwestern University study found that black and Hispanic households are at greater risk of food insecurity.

Tackle 1 adjustment at a time

More comprehensive food education from an early age can also instill healthy eating habits throughout life. The emphasis is on prevention, Lichtenstein said, rather than short-term solutions.

By teaching kids to cook, science says they'll make healthier choices as adults (CNN emphasis)

Healthy foods have become more convenient, she said. Frozen fruits and vegetables, which can be cheaper than fresh, are just as nutritious. Dairy products have low fat and fat free options. Flavored seltzer is also readily available as an alternative to soda.

Implementing all of these changes at once can be overwhelming, but Lichtenstein said this change could start one item at a time. Read the label of a snack you buy each week, like crackers, and go for the whole wheat option. Or choose lower fat and lower sugar options if available. Maintaining these habits involves making minor adjustments and incremental changes.

“Think about your entire diet, not individual foods or nutrients,” Lichtenstein said. “We just have to take advantage of what we may not have achieved.”

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