Studies show that eating enough dietary fiber is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Fiber is found in plant-based whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. While adults need to consume between 21g and 38g of fiber per day, most of them consume only half of that amount.
Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that is especially beneficial for lowering LDL cholesterol. Since it is not absorbed, it can bind to cholesterol in the intestine and help eliminate it from the body. Studies show that a soluble fiber intake of five to ten grams per day can reduce LDL cholesterol by at least five to eleven points. Foods rich in soluble fiber, that is, that contain between one and three grams of soluble fiber per serving, include oats, barley, quinoa, legumes, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, psyllium, avocado, broccoli, carrots, green beans, Brussels sprouts, turnips, sweet potatoes, green peas, apples, bananas, peaches, pears, apricots, plums, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and mangoes.
Strong scientific evidence demonstrates the benefits of reducing saturated and trans-fat intake, and replacing them with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of CVD.
Saturated fats, which are to be limited, are mainly found in red meat, high-fat dairy products, butter, lard, fried foods, pastries, and tropical oils (palm oil, coconut oil). In recent years, the use of coconut oil has gained popularity despite its high saturated fat content. Studies show that it can raise LDL cholesterol, with few proven positive health benefits.
Trans fats are derived from hydrogenated oils and can be found in some processed products such as margarines and pastries. In Canada, these have been banned since 2018, but since the industry was given a few years to sell-off its products, it is possible that some still contain them.
Unsaturated fats are best for heart health. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocados and nuts, among others. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 is found in vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, and sesame oil. In general, we want to focus more on omega-3 sources since our needs for them are more difficult to meet. Omega-3 is found in fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines), ground flax seeds, chia seeds, canola oil, camelina oil, soybeans, and walnuts.
Although drinking a small amount of red wine may have protective effects on the risk of cardiovascular disease, these effects are not significant enough to recommend drinking wine to people who do not already drink it. It is clear that high alcohol consumption has adverse effects on heart health, especially triglyceride levels. So, if you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start; If you choose to drink it, limit your consumption to one serving per day for both men and women. This is equivalent to one beer (341 ml) or 4 oz (125 ml) of wine or 1.5 oz (45 ml) of spirits.
Added sugars are associated with an increased risk of CVD and obesity. It is especially important to reduce them to prevent blood triglyceride levels from rising or to help decrease them. Added sugars refer to all sugars added to a food or beverage during preparation or processing. Common types of added sugars include glucose, dextrose, sucrose, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, and concentrated fruit juices. It is recommended to avoid all sugary drinks, including fruit juices.