Don't count calories, eat healthily to cut heart risks, say experts

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Doctors should promote the powerful benefit of healthy food rather than focusing on calories and handing out drugs, experts have said.

A diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and olive oil can cut the risk of heart disease, say researchers.

The rising tide of obesity and unhealthy living should not be ignored but the benefits of medicines to tackle the problem are “exaggerated”, they said.

Instead, people should eat a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in oily fish, olive oil and nuts, and focus on the nutritional content of food rather than just calories.

The opinion piece, written in the journal Open Heart, said other changes, such as stopping smoking, also had major benefits.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, from Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, James DiNicolantonio, from the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas in the US, and Professor Simon Capewell, from the University of Liverpool, said research had shown many times over that simple steps could benefit health.

For example, drinking a sugary drink (150 calories) is associated with a significantly increased risk of Type 2 diabetes but a daily handful of nuts (30g of walnuts, 15g of almonds and 15g of hazelnuts) or four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (around 500 calories) is associated with a significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.

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