Heart Health

Thomas Rude is my very favorite artist. I was fortunate enough to meet him once, while I was visiting Portland. You can check out some of his prints here. I have the one of the American flag and the one of a heart. It’s the one of the heart that I’ve been meditating on a bit today.

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “good hearted” a lot  lately. To have a good heart is to be kind, decent, compassionate. It is to be emotionally generous and benevolent. I want to have a good heart, in every one of these ways, but I also want to have a strong heart – the kind that keeps pumping, well into my eighties. Maybe even my nineties. It’s why I spent the month of January trying out a whole-foods, plant based diet (which I loved, and promptly abandoned – it’s been ice cream and cheddar cheese at Casa Minify of late!)

Enough. I turn thirty one years old on Sunday. The love of my life is now thirty, with a family history of high cholesterol. It’s time we made a more permanent change. January went far better than I expected, but I don’t think I can commit to being a permanent vegan. Mostly vegan, yes, but not entirely. It’s not that I missed specific foods – I expected to miss them dearly, but cheese and ice cream weren’t even that desirable, within about a week of giving them up. The challenge for me is that a vegan diet requires a lot of thoughtful commitment to things like Vitamins D and B12, and in a household where one member can’t have tree nuts or soy, it was a bit complicated to plan balanced meals that met all of our nutritional needs.

I did a lot of reading, and the scientific evidence is piling up in support of the mediterranean diet.  (Side note: have we talked about my obsession with the Nurses Health Study? No? It’s the greatest long term observational research design OF ALL TIME. Let’s nerd out over research methods some other time, though.) Today I’m interested in one of the many findings that have come out of the Nurses Health Study – what you eat now matters later. And a diet high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats and transfats, predicts better long term health outcomes. The mediterranean diet is still mostly plant based, and focuses not on reducing total fat, but on eating better quality fats (olive oil in place of butter, for example, or more nuts and less red meat). I’m thinking seriously about committing to following a more mediterranean diet at our house. I was drawn to it because it’s evidence based, mostly plant based, favors whole foods, and is good for us and the planet. Also – who are we kidding – because it still allows a glass of wine with dinner, which frankly makes the whole thing about ten times more appealing. I’m not interested in dieting for my looks, or lists of forbidden foods, or temporary change. I’m interested in changing my long term habits so that we can live a longer, healthier, more sustainable life.

If you’d like to follow along or read more about the mediterranean diet, you can read more from the Mayo Clinic here.

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