Women's Health     Healthy Kids     Teen Health    

Highly rated diets to support heart health



Experts take the guess work out of choosing

Highly rated diets to support heart health


Eating healthy is an important goal for people looking to maintain or improve their physical health, particularly as it relates to the heart. With often conflicting information available online and via social media, it may be difficult or downright confusing to find the eating plan for you.

To help navigate the maze of information – and misinformation – experts assessed and scored the heart healthiness of several popular diets. Each diet was evaluated against the American Heart Association’s guidance for a heart-healthy eating pattern, which emphasizes eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins (including fish, low- or non-fat dairy and plant proteins), non-tropical plant oils and minimally processed foods; avoiding added sugars, salt and alcohol; and sticking to this guidance even when you’re eating away from home.

Diets received a rating between 0-100 and were ranked in tiers, with the resulting analysis published as an American Heart Association scientific statement in the journal “Circulation.”

“If implemented as intended, the top-tier dietary patterns align best with key features of heart-healthy eating and may be adapted to respect cultural practices, food preferences and budgets to enable people to eat this way for the long term,” said Christopher D. Gardner, Ph.D., FAHA, chair of the scientific statement writing committee and the Rehnborg Farquhar Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.

Tier 1: Highest-Rated Eating Plans (scores higher than 85)
The four patterns with the highest ratings align best with heart-healthy guidance, are flexible and provide an array of healthy foods to choose from.

  • DASH – With a perfect score by meeting all guidance, an eating pattern similar to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, lean meats, poultry, fish and non-tropical oils. Nordic and Baltic diets are also examples of this eating pattern, which is low in salt, added sugar, alcohol, tropical oils and processed foods.

  • Mediterranean – This pattern limits dairy while emphasizing fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and extra-virgin olive oil. Because it includes moderate alcohol drinking, rather than avoiding or limiting consumption, it scored a few points lower than DASH.

  • Vegetarian/Pescatarian – A plant-based eating pattern that includes fish.

  • Vegetarian/Ovo/Lacto – Plant-based eating patterns that include eggs (ovo-vegetarian), dairy (lacto-vegetarian) or both (ovo-lacto vegetarian).

Tier 2: Vegan and Low-Fat Diets (scores 75-85)
These eating patterns mostly align with heart-healthy criteria and emphasize important food groups but fell short of reaching the top tier due to limitations.

  • Vegan – A plant-based eating pattern that includes no animal products. Restrictions in this plan may make it more difficult to follow long term or when dining out. Following a vegan eating pattern increases the risk of some nutrient deficiencies, which may be overcome by supplements or fortified foods.

  • Low Fat – A diet that limits fat intake to less than 30% of total calories, including the volumetrics eating plan and therapeutic lifestyle change plan. These types of plans often treat all fats equally while the American Heart Association’s guidance suggests replacing saturated fats with healthier fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Those who follow low-fat diets may overconsume less healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as added sugars and refined grains. However, these factors may be overcome with proper counseling and education from a health professional.

To find the full results and learn more about heart-healthy eating, visit Heart.org.

(Family Features)
Photos courtesy of Getty Images



Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • Understanding 'Warning Strokes'

    What to expect if you experience stroke symptoms, even if they disappear

    Diagnosing a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “warning stroke,” can be challenging because symptoms often disappear within an hour. However, it’s important to seek emergency assessment to help prevent a full-blown stroke. read more »
  • Managing your family's year-round health

    Protect everyone from infectious diseases

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines help create protective antibodies that fight off infections. read more »
  • What to know about Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

    treatment can help control symptoms and improve quality of life

    Each year, an estimated 500-1,000 people nationwide are diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). While there’s currently no cure, treatment can help control symptoms and improve quality of life. read more »
  • Bring back family bonding this fall

    3 ways to free up busy schedules to spend time with loved ones

    Busy fall schedules often leave little time for the things that matter most – sharing special moments with those you love. This year, as time seems to speed up during another school year, making family bonding a priority in your household can start with a few simple tricks. read more »
  • Top tips for a more organized kitchen

    Save time and money

    Better organization in the kitchen means spending less time searching for the right ingredient or tool so you can have more time for savoring meals with family and friends, and more time for personal pursuits. read more »
  • 6 small, kind gestures to make a big impact each day

    Performing acts of kindness improves individual well-being

    Everywhere you look, you can see moments of kindness. From a friend sending a thoughtful text message to a stranger holding the bus for someone running late or a person paying for someone else’s coffee, acts of kindness happen every day. read more »
  • Keeping babies safe

    Tips to help prevent some of the biggest dangers

    Tips to help prevent some of the biggest dangers for babies include safe sleeping habits, product recalls, baby proofing & car safety read more »
  • Tips to get tour student prepped for college entrance exams

    Help get your teen ready

    Is the SAT or ACT on the horizon for your high schooler? A lot of emphasis is placed on college entrance exams, and your child may be anxious about their scores. read more »
  • More than two-thirds of Americans plan to get a flu shot this season

    CVS Pharmacy® and MinuteClinic® encourage consumers to get an annual flu shot and stay up to date on routine vaccinations

    CVS Health® (NYSE: CVS) is prepared to meet patients' vaccination and other preventive health care needs as flu season approaches. CVS Pharmacy® and MinuteClinic® are offering the annual flu vaccine at locations nationwide. CVS Pharmacy is also offering the new respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, which has been approved for adults ages 60 and up. read more »
  • 10 phrases to say to children every day

    Instill valuable life skills and boost their self-esteem

    As parents, you play a pivotal role in shaping your child’s character, confidence, and overall development. Every interaction is an opportunity to instill valuable life skills and boost their self-esteem. read more »