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Do your eating habits need a makeover?

Summer is over and the hot, lazy days of relaxation and recreation are behind us.  It’s time to start thinking about re-energizing our lives. What better way to do this than to consider adopting healthier habits of eating?

“For most of us, the typical American diet includes a heavy dose of animal products: beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish, dairy and other milk products,” says Kirk Laman, D.O., a cardiologist at Piedmont. “Most of us grew up with these foods and don’t think twice about incorporating them into our diet.”

But have you ever wondered, “Are these foods really healthy for my heart?”

“New research from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that many of our traditional ideas about food may be in error,” says Dr. Laman. “We may want to rethink our eating habits.”

Researchers examined the eating habits of 73,710 nurses in The Nurses’ Health Study and 43,259 men from the Health Professional Follow-up Study. Participants were studied over a 26-year span to determine if a plant-based diet could be healthier.

It was shown that plant-based foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, plant oils, tea and coffee) prevented more heart disease than foods like sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes, fried foods, sweets and animal-based products.

“Quite interestingly all the foods in the animal group (beef, pork, chicken, dairy, eggs, and even fish) were shown to increase the risk of heart disease,” he explains. “For many people, this may seem horrifying. After all, so much of the pleasure in our lives revolves around eating.”

Does this mean your Saturday tailgates and Sunday barbeques are history?

“Not at all,” says Dr. Laman. “You don’t have to give up everything you love eating to be heart-healthy. But you may want to seriously rethink the types and quantities of foods that you slide down the old gullet."

Instead, “Focus on increasing the amount of plant-based foods you consume. If you can, then you can reduce your chances of developing heart disease,” he says.

Get more nutrition tips from Living Better experts.