The Winning Diet for Heart Health: No Clear Victor but a Common Champion!

Most health articles recommend diets and specific nutrients for a healthy heart, but contradictory advice can often lead to confusion. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) conducted an investigation on the three most popular heart disease prevention diets, which emphasize specific macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and unsaturated fats.

The three diets were:

  1. DASH Like Diet – A carbohydrate-rich diet, with sugars, grains, and starches accounting for over half of its calories.
  2. Protein-Rich Diet – Replaces 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates with protein.
  3. Healthy Fats Diet – Rich in unsaturated fat with 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates replaced by healthy fats found in avocados, fish, and nuts.

All three diets were low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, while providing other nutrients at recommended dietary levels. Researchers measured each diet’s effect on a biomarker reflecting heart injury and inflammation, compared it to participants’ baseline levels, and performed a head-to-head comparison between diets.

Surprisingly, all three diets were equally effective at reducing heart injury and inflammation, showing positive results within a 6-week period. However, changing the macronutrients of the diet (carbs, protein, or fats) didn’t provide any extra cardiovascular benefits. This supports the idea that adopting a healthier diet can quickly reduce heart injury, but it is the overall healthfulness of a diet, not the type, that matters for cardiac injury.

As Stephen Juraschek, MD, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School explained, “Our findings support flexibility in food selection for people attempting to eat a healthier diet and should make it easier.” Adopting a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and high in fiber while limiting red meats, sugary beverages, and sweets, can prevent heart disease and maintain long-term heart health.