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The 10 Best Diets for Better Heart Health, Ranked by Cardiologists

Surprise! The Mediterranean diet falls in the third slot. Learn about the top two diets, plus the other fads that don’t quite make the grade.

Ali Redmond

Ali Redmond

Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD

The Mediterranean diet is often applauded as one of the best diets for overall health. It is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and seafood and legumes and light on dairy and meat (and, as a result, low in saturated fat, too, which is a topic still up for debate in the heart-health world). It’s a heart-smart way to eat, and can be beneficial in many other areas of health as well. Mediterranean dieters also tend to have lower risk for certain cancers, cognitive decline, type 2 diabetes and more.

Circling back to heart disease risk, the Mediterranean diet tied for first in the U.S. News and World Report‘s 2022 rankings for the best diets for heart health, but a surprising new victor came out on top in 2023. That 2023 best diet for heart health also earned a gold medal in a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association, published April 27, 2023, in its journal Circulation. The U.S. News and World Report health panel and AHA cardiologists now agree that the DASH diet (which is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) appears to be the best diet for heart health.

Read on to learn more about what makes DASH such a heart-smart eating style, then study up on how nine other popular diets ranked in the evidence-based analysis by AHA professionals.

Related:What’s Better for Heart Health: Cardio or Strength Training? Here’s What Research Says

What This Heart Health Study Found

If you’ve scrolled through TikTok lately, chances are high that you’ve been

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The best (and worst) diets for heart health, according to the American Heart Association

From paleo to pescatarian, there’s a seemingly endless list of diets to choose from. But which are the most heart-healthy?

In a statement released Thursday, the American Heart Association rated 10 popular diets based on their standards for heart health.

The diets that rated the best for improving cardiometabolic health included the DASH-style eating plan, the Mediterranean diet, pescatarian and vegetarian. Meanwhile, paleo and ketogenic diets were found to contradict the association’s guidance and did not rank as heart-healthy eating patterns.

“The number of different, popular dietary patterns has proliferated in recent years, and the amount of misinformation about them on social media has reached critical levels,” Christopher D. Gardner, chair of the writing committee for the statement and the Rehnborg Farquhar professor of medicine at Stanford University, said in a press release

“The public – and even many health care professionals – may rightfully be confused about heart-healthy eating, and they may feel that they don’t have the time or the training to evaluate the different diets.” he said. “We hope this statement serves as a tool for clinicians and the public to understand which diets support good cardiometabolic health.”

The DASH-style eating plan, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” received a perfect score from the analysis thanks to its emphasis on being low in salt, added sugar, alcohol, tropical oils and processed foods as well as being rich in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Protien also tends to be mostly from plant sources along with fish, lean meats and low- or fat-free dairy products.

The Mediterranean diet, patterned on the traditional cuisines of the region, emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts and whole grains. It ranked below DASH since it doesn’t “explicitly address added salt

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Expert recommends walking every day to better heart health

Dr Watson, from Wellgood Wellbeing, elaborated: “Walking lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of diabetes and lowers cholesterol.”

A healthy blood pressure reading is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, the NHS says.

As for diabetes, too much sugar in the blood can damage the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygenated blood.

And high levels of cholesterol can clump together and settle along artery walls, thereby restricting blood flow to the heart.

Dr Watson told Stylist that taking steps every day boosts levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) which, in turn, lowers levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.

READ MORE: Four fruit juices that could slash your risk of heart disease – high in potassium

Thus, by walking, you are able to protect the heart from blood glucose and bad cholesterol.

The NHS recommends everybody to move for at least 150 minutes each week.

To have it count towards improved cardiovascular health, it’s crucial that you feel that little bit warmer while walking.

In addition to incorporating walking into your daily life, another area you can work on to improve your heart health is nutrition.

Nutritionist Hannah Hope said: “Lowering red meat consumption can help to reduce cholesterol and support your heart health.

“Rather than opting for red meat, aim for a diet high in fruits, vegetables, oily fish and poultry.”

British Heart Foundation dietitian Victor Taylor added: “Most of us could benefit from a traditional Mediterranean-style diet.

“This means eating less meat, and more fish and plant-based protein, such as lentils, nuts and seeds, but also plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.”

How to protect your heart

The Mayo Clinic urges people to refrain from smoking or using tobacco – or even inhaling secondhand smoke.

“Chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart and blood vessels,” the organisation notes.

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Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts

<p>Sergey Kirsanov / Getty images</p>

Sergey Kirsanov / Getty images

Medically reviewed by Suzanne Fisher, MS

The açai palm—Euterpe oleracea—is a plant native to the Amazon region of tropical Central and South America. It produces small, deep purple-colored berries that are rich in nutrients and antioxidant compounds.

Indigenous communities of the Amazon have used açai berries as a food source and natural medicine for thousands of years. More recently, the popularity of açai has grown in other areas of the world, including the United States, as more people learn about the health benefits of this tropical fruit.

Benefits of Acai

Açaí berries may be small, but they’re packed with health-protective vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. Typically, fresh açaí berries are not sold in the U.S., but you can still get the benefits from juiced and frozen forms of the fruit.

Provides Powerful Antioxidants

Açaí berries are rich in protective phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Antioxidants help protect against oxidative stress, a process that otherwise can lead to cellular damage and diseases including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Anti-inflammatory compounds inhibit pro-inflammatory pathways in the body that can sometimes encourage inflammation and lead to disease.

Research shows açaí extract has a greater antioxidant capacity than both vitamin C and vitamin E, and supplementing with açaí products may help improve the body’s antioxidant defenses.

A small study found drinking 200 milliliter (ml) of açaí juice per day for four weeks led to significant increases in antioxidant levels and activity. The treatment also decreased markers of oxidative stress.

Another small study found consuming 400 grams (g) of açaí pulp per day for 15 days increased the men’s blood antioxidant capacity and decreased markers of cellular damage.

Research also shows açaí has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and could help

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How 10 Popular Eating Plans Rank, According to Cardiologists

<p>Getty Images / miniseries</p>

Getty Images / miniseries

Fact checked by Nick Blackmer

  • A new review analyzed 10 of the most popular diets regarding their heart health benefits—only one received a perfect score.

  • Diets that focused on plant-based protein, fish, and lean meats as main protein sources were ranked higher than diets that included more red meat.

  • Experts recommend finding a diet that is healthy and sustainable to keep up; a diet you cannot stick with won’t get you very far, no matter what health goals you’re striving toward.

A new study analyzed 10 of the most popular diets regarding heart health benefits—one diet received a perfect score, with the subsequent nine ranging in benefit levels.

A different diet is trending almost daily, but if you’re looking to improve your heart health, which one do you choose? The internet and social media are full of misinformation that is confusing for consumers and patients.

A significant source of confusion among different dietary patterns is the distribution of the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Certain diets—such as the Mediterranean diet—are high in fat, while others are significantly lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates. Some popularized diets exclude major food groups. The Paleo diet excludes dairy and the ketogenic diet excludes almost all carbohydrate sources. The question becomes about diet sustainability and what factors in these diets actually contribute to cardiometabolic health.

But the recent study, published in Circulation, a scientific journal from the American Heart Association [AHA], analyzed 10 of the most popular diets to see how they stack up when it comes to protecting your heart. The results might surprise you.

<p>Getty Images / miniseries</p>

Getty Images / miniseries

Comparing Diets

The study authors used the 2021 AHA Dietary Guidance as a set of criteria for heart-healthy diets that promote cardiometabolic health. They then examined

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