Nutrition for Heart Health

Protect Your Heart (See T.V. segment here: Great Day HoustonMed-Diet

February is National Heart Month and a great time to review the latest nutrition recommendations for lowering your risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease (CVD). There are several science-based diets such as the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) and The American Heart Association Diet that have been proven effective for heart health.

The diet that is particularly intriguing for preventing heart disease is the Mediterranean Diet (Med-Diet) presented in the study titled “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet,” by Ramon Estruch, M.D., Ph.D., in The New England Journal of Medicine, April 4, 2013. The diet proved effective in preventing heart disease in high-risk populations. Participants enjoyed the diet enough to maintain the eating plan during the 4-year study.

The researchers suggested that the Med-Diet supplemented with EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL and nuts showed an anti-inflammatory effect that reduced atherogenesis in subjects at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

A summary of the Med-Diet is listed in the table below. It should be emphasized that this is not a weight loss diet, so portion control should be considered reduction if reducing body fat is a goal.

The dairy food group was not emphasized in the diet of participants in this study; however, to ensure good bone health an appropriate source of calcium and vitamin D is imperative. If you do not include dairy in your diet, look for calcium and vitamin D fortified foods.

See how The Mediterranean Diet stacks up to the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) Diet often recommended by health experts:

NUTRIENT (daily)      DASH MED
CALORIES        2000 2200
PROTEIN         18% 16%
CARBOHYDRATE          55% 40%
TOTAL FAT 27% 41%
CHOLESTEROL 150 mg 339 mg
DIETARY FIBER 30 gm 26 gm

Note that while there was no sodium restriction in the Med-diet, consuming fresh foods at home might reduce sodium intake significantly. Cooking with aromatic herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of foods is part of the Med-Diet.

See the recipe below for a basic Mediterranean Sofrito. The Phytochemicals found in tomatoes help prevent oxidative stress and the chemical Rutin found in onions and garlic help prevent blood clotting which may lead to strokes.

Think about moving towards a Med-Diet combined with an active lifestyle for your heart health. You can determine your 10-year risk factor for CVD by going to the national Institute of Health website and using The Risk Calculator. This assessment is not for people with diabetes or who currently have CVD. The risk factor information is most accurate for Non-Hispanic Whites and Afro-Americans between the ages of 40 and 75 years old.

Mediterranean Sofrito (serves 3)

 Total Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.

Prep Time: 15 min.

Cook Time: 2 hours


  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:  Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan covered and simmer on low heat for at least 2 hours. The recipe is just a base so feel free to add your favorite vegetables and seafood.

Does this sound like a diet you would like to try?  Let us know how you like it!

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One Response to Nutrition for Heart Health

  1. David L. says:

    Outstanding article and very informative

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