New Research Claims This Is The Best Diet For Heart Health

Studies have long shown that adequate nutrition is key for overall health, and it's an especially important factor in avoiding cardiovascular disease. But new research has pinpointed one diet in particular that can result in a healthy cardiovascular system. The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in June 2021, found that participants who followed the Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk (26%) of sudden cardiac arrest than their peers who adhered to the diet the least (via Eating Well). In contrast, the research found that the Southern-style diet increased the risk of sudden cardiac death to 46%.

If you haven't heard of the Mediterranean Diet, it is a plant-based diet built around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, and whole grains (via Mayo Clinic). The diet is light on dairy and meat — other than fish — and is modeled off the cuisine of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

The Southern Diet, on the other hand, is defined as including added fats, eggs, fried foods, organ meats like liver or giblets, processed meats like deli meat, bacon and hotdogs, and drinks sweetened with sugar (via the American Heart Association).

Breaking down the study data

The study was conducted using self-reported data over the course of 10 years from the 21,000 participants ages 45 and older enrolled in the national research project "Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke." More than 50% of the residents in the study lived in the southeastern United States, according to a news release from the American Heart Association.

The study's team identified other dietary patterns along with the Mediterranean and Southern diets that included "sweets," "convenience" or take-out/ready-made, "plant-based," and "alcohol and salad." Researchers also noted that participants didn't strictly follow one diet all the time, but there were patterns between the types of diets typically followed. "While this study was observational in nature, the results suggest that diet may be a modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death, and, therefore, diet is a risk factor that we have some control over," James M. Shikany, lead study author and professor of medicine and associate director for research in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a news release.

If the Mediterranean diet isn't for you, following the American Heart Association recommendations of incorporating beans, fruits, fish, lean protein, legumes, nuts, and vegetables is a good place to start. You should also try to limit your added sugar (drinks in particular), processed meat, saturated fats, and sodium.