I hope this email finds you in good health and high spirits!
Summer holidays are arriving for everyone in the northern hemisphere; the ashes and Wimbledon are in full swing. As I’ve probably said already, most of Melbourne seems to be in Europe holidaying! I am finding the winter long here this year, having spent four months with my parents last year and escaping Australia (Melbourne lockdown) in 2021 for two and a half months to be with my parents then too. So, we are heading for some Queensland sun in a few weeks to top up the Vitamin D, get some sunlight in our eyes and have some playtime with the kids.
Following on from last week’s email discussing the risks of consuming processed foods, such as omega-6 oils, I have come across some research highlighting the importance of ensuring we consume enough of the healthy stuff. So, it’s not just about avoiding the bad stuff; we must eat plenty of the good stuff too. With many people aiming to lose weight and doing faddy diets in the process, then not consuming enough real food, this emphasises how important it is to continue eating plenty, but cutting back on the bad foods when you make those changes.
A recent comprehensive study led by researchers at McMaster University, drawing data from multiple countries, has revealed a striking connection between insufficient consumption of certain food groups and elevated risks of cardiovascular disease and mortality. The research team analysed dietary patterns and cardiovascular health data from over 80 countries over 25 years, making this study one of the most extensive of its kind.
- Insufficient Fruit and Vegetable Intake: The study found that low consumption of fruits and vegetables was strongly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death. These nutrient-rich foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to heart health and help reduce the risk of chronic conditions like hypertension and heart disease.
- Limited Legume, Nut, and Fish Consumption: The research also highlighted the importance of legumes, nuts, and fish in maintaining cardiovascular health. Inadequate intake of these food groups was linked to higher risks of heart disease. Legumes and nuts are excellent sources of plant-based protein, fibre, and healthy fats, while fish provides omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to support heart health.
- Impact of Raw Whole-Fat Dairy: The study observed a protective effect associated with consuming raw whole-fat dairy products. These included items like whole milk, cheese, and yoghurt. It is an excellent source of calcium, iron, Vitamins A, D & K, phosphorus, zinc, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), omega-3 fatty acids, and many beneficial enzymes and probiotics. It suggests that moderate consumption of raw whole-fat dairy may have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health. This is certainly something we would see in the blue zones of Greece.
Whether you are in the height of summer eating out at restaurants and having BBQs or in the depths of winter and hibernating, we all need to eat well every day. Consuming insufficient amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, and raw whole-fat dairy products increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
My dad Robert wrote many health books, including one on Heart health, and his diet recommendations always made the point that you must consume lots of the good stuff. He suggested eating 8-12 portions of vegetables and 2-3 portions of fruit each day. This is a far cry from the 5-a-day we are all led to believe is healthy, and the research is catching up with my dad!
Remember, maintaining a healthy heart goes beyond just diet. Regular physical activity, stress management, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption are all integral components of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Andrew Mente, Mahshid Dehghan, Sumathy Rangarajan, Martin O’Donnell, Weihong Hu, Gilles Dagenais, Andreas Wielgosz, Scott A Lear, Li Wei, Rafael Diaz et al. Diet, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in 80 countries. European Heart Journal, 2023 DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehad269
Wishing you good health and happiness.