6 foods for a healthier heart and longer life

It isn’t news by now that certain foods promote a healthy heart, while others set you up for heart disease and stroke.

But it seems that a disproportionate amount of advice focuses on warning you off of foods that are bad for you. And while others offer insight into the foods we should eat, there just doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

Well, I have some good news…

A large study has put together some great advice — and even some food swaps that can help us choose what to put on our plates every day to avoid the number one killer of Americans and add years to our lives.

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80 countries can’t be wrong

Researchers at Canada’s McMaster University have found that not only are processed foods harmful to our health, but simply not getting enough of the right foods can put us in danger of heart disease.

The strength of this study is that it looked not just at people in Western nations but analyzed data from 245,000 people in 80 countries involved in the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study.

They came up with the PURE Healthy Diet Score, then applied it in five independent studies to measure health outcomes in different world regions and in people both with and without prior cardiovascular disease.

The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends the following as average intakes:

  • 2-3 servings of fruit daily
  • 2-3 servings of vegetables daily
  • One serving of nuts daily
  • Two servings of dairy daily
  • 3-4 weekly servings of legumes 
  • 2-3 weekly servings of fish

The PURE Healthy Diet Score focused on exclusively protective, or natural, foods.

“We were unique in that focus. The other diet scores combined foods considered to be harmful — such as processed and ultra-processed foods — with foods and nutrients believed to be protective of one’s health,” said first author Andrew Mente, PHRI scientist and assistant professor at McMaster’s Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact.

“There is a recent increased focus on higher consumption of protective foods for disease prevention. Outside of larger amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, the researchers showed that moderation is key in the consumption of natural foods,” he said.

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Not a fan of fish? Opt for unrefined grains and meat

One of the hardest pieces of dietary advice for most Americans is to eat less meat and more fish. But the PURE study says meat is ok with a caveat…

“Moderate amounts of fish and whole-fat dairy are associated with a lower risk of CVD and mortality. The same health outcomes can be achieved with moderate consumption of grains and meats — as long as they are unrefined whole grains and unprocessed meats,” says first author Andrew Mente, assistant professor at McMaster’s Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact.

“Unrefined” is the key word here, especially for heart health. Let’s start with whole grains…

Previous study results discovered there’s a heart-protective group of compounds in grains that works like a drug according to Finnish researchers  — betaines.

Pipecolic acid betaine is higher after a meal of whole grains and helps to control blood sugar levels.

Another, called 5-aminovaleric acid betaine, or 5-AVAB, is shown to be heart-protective. Eating whole grains causes 5-AVAB to build up in your heart tissue.

Unrefined grains include whole grain flours such as wheat, rye and buckwheat and intact or cracked whole grains like bulgur, steel cut oats and barley.

Refined grains include goods made with refined white flour, such as white bread, pasta and noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers and bakery products, and on the other hand are associated with:

  • a 47 percent higher risk of stroke;
  • a 33 percent higher risk of heart disease;
  • higher systolic blood pressure;
  • a 27 percent higher risk of early death.  

As for meat, go with fresh and avoid processed lunch meats and bacon as much as possible. The PURE researchers suggest unprocessed red meat or poultry at one serving daily.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


Not eating enough of these six healthy foods is associated with higher cardiovascular disease and deaths globally Science Daily

Diet, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in 80 countries European Heart Journal

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.