When it comes to treating - or preventing - heart disease, we rely primarily on medications to get the job done. Because clinical trials inform us about how much risk we are eliminating by prescribing pills. But this pill-centric approach often ignores the tremendous impact diet has on outcomes.
For example, statins are lauded as imperative for risk reduction in patients with established heart disease. And they do work - lowering the risk of cardiovascular events in these individuals by around 24%.
But did you know diet is even more powerful?
A recent study documented that the Mediterranean diet, which is high in nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, beans, unprocessed grains, olive oil and fish, reduced cardiovascular events in patients with heart disease by a whopping 37%.
That makes food one and one half times as powerful as drugs!
Now I need to be very clear - I’m not saying you should just throw out your statin and start eating nuts if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease. If you tolerate these medications, you should continue to take them – after all, you want every advantage you can get and a 24% risk reduction is quite significant. But I would also advise you to embrace diet as your main prevention strategy because it is the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO to assure a long and healthy life, and not just for heart health.
And what if you haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease and are lowering your cholesterol with medications purely for preventative measures? Doing everything you can to minimize your dependence on statins is a smart move – especially since the right changes to your diet can help you get off statins altogether. That’s a big deal because statins are not medications you take for a couple of weeks. They are medications you potentially take for the rest of your life.
The power of food is not news to us at Step One Foods and that’s why we are on a mission to help make food a central component of your care plan. We know (it’s a fact) that your diet is the most important influencer of your health.
Our approach is reflective of the Mediterranean eating plan and is grounded in research from the world’s leading institutions. The medical literature is actually voluminous and consistent about what nutrients in what amounts impact cholesterol levels and heart health.
That’s the reason we created a program that supplies at least 10 grams of whole food fiber, 3 grams of ALA omega 3 fatty acids, 2 grams of plant sterols, and 5000 µmoL antioxidants per day.
You’re probably wondering: why these nutrients and why these amounts?
- Each 10 grams/day increase in whole food fiber intake is associated with a 14% decrease in risk of experiencing a coronary event and a 24% decrease in dying from heart disease.
- Each 1 gram increase in food-based ALA omega 3 intake is associated with a 16% reduction in risk of heart disease.
- Eating one extra serving of fruits or vegetables daily is associated with 4% decrease in the risk of heart disease and a 6% decrease in the risk of ischemic stroke (the 5000 µmoLof antioxidants in Step One Foods is what you’d find in 3 servings of fruits/vegetables).
- Taking in 2 grams of plant sterols, in 2 servings of food, reduces LDL cholesterol by up to 15%.
That's the amazing thing. We know that food has a powerful impact on outcomes - and yet the medical system primarily focuses on getting you to take pills. Pills are not necessarily evil, but they are an incomplete solution. What we eat is critical to health and outcomes. And no drug will ever compare.
Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC