It seems every year a new diet trend emerges boasting new and improved health benefits. But are their claims true? As we close on National Heart Health month, we have outlined a few popular diets and what research is showing about their cardiovascular effects.

Mediterranean Diet: Heart Healer

  • The Mediterranean diet helps lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or our “bad” cholesterol, by focusing on plant-based options and healthy fats.
  • This diet has been clinically shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
  • The Mediterranean diet is also advisable as a long-term diet option for heart health.

DASH: Heart Healer

  • DASH actually stands for Dietary Advances to Stop Hypertension and was designed to reduce high blood pressure and be heart healthy.
  • The DASH diet composition maintains a healthy balance of nutrients, focus on fiber, and low sodium which make this diet suitable for long-term use and benefits.
  • DASH is a great for hypertension patients who want to improve their blood pressure and overall health.

Ketogenic Diet: Heart Breaker

  • Though a ketogenic diet is great to jump start weight loss, it can be high in saturated fats which are known to increase cholesterol and build plaque in arteries.
  • The ketogenic diet should be used as a therapeutic diet: short term, for a purpose, and with advisement of a Registered Dietitian (RD). It is not recommended for long-term use.

Gluten Free: Unknown

  • Gluten free products and awareness have sky-rocketed in popularity in recent years but for those of us that don’t have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity there may not be any real benefit to adopting this diet. Some studies have shown it could be beneficial to those with irritable bowel syndrome because it can include pieces of a low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides disaccharides monosaccharides and polyols) diet.
  • A negative side effect of going gluten free without cause is that several gluten free product alternatives are less nutrient filled than their whole wheat counterparts.
  • There is no scientific evidence at this time that suggests going gluten free is detrimental or beneficial to heart health.

Paleo: It’s a Tie

  • The concept of a paleo diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed foods) may have cardiovascular benefits however, it is easy to over consume red meats which are high in saturated fats and are detrimental to heart health.
  • Work with a Dietitian if you want to try a paleo style diet to make sure that it is a heart healer and not a heart breaker.


To summarize, heart healthy diets encourage high consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while discouraging inclusion of added salt, sugar, or saturated fats. If you would like to learn more about the diets mentioned in this article click on their names or ask your RD if one may be a good choice for you.