Good news for those partial to a mid-morning coffee or afternoon cuppa: coffee and tea get the tick of approval in new research out of the United States that looks at which foods contribute to a healthy heart.

Researchers from the American College of Cardiology Nutrition & Lifestyle Workgroup of the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Council analysed the data-to-date on some controversial nutritional trends and ‘hypes’, bringing clarity to confusion around foods likedairy products, added sugar, legumes, coffee and tea, alcohol, energy drinks, mushrooms, fermented foods, Omega-3s and vitamin B12. Their review – a follow-up to examine foods not covered in their earlier review of other food fad trends – was published this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Experts have struggled to reach consensus on dairy intake, for example. While low-fat dairy can significantly lower blood pressure, several studies have shown a link between dairy intake and increased LDL cholesterol, fractures and all-cause mortality. However following the researchers review of multiple meta-analyses they recommended that dairy should be consumed with caution, as it is unclear if there is benefit or harm, and dairy is a major source of saturated fat in Western diets.

Unsurprisingly the researchers were clear on the health impact of consuming added sugars. The researchers strongly recommend that individuals eliminate added sugars (table sugar and corn syrup) from their diet as much as possible, due to increased risk for coronary heart disease, stroke and worsened atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

But coffee and tea drinkers get the green light. Overall the habitual consumption of coffee is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular mortality, and there is no association between coffee and hypertension development. Both black and green tea consumption without milk and sugar appear to be safe and even associated with improved cardiovascular health and blood lipids.

The researchers also found thatlow-to-moderate intake of alcohol is associated with reduced risk of total cardiovascular disease. However, due to risks of certain cancers and liver disease, it isn’t recommend that alcohol is consumed for cardiovascular benefit.

Lead researcher Dr Andrew Freeman says there is no perfect, one size fits all dietary pattern for preventing heart disease.

“But, most of the evidence continues to reinforce that a predominantly plant-based diet lower in fat, added sugars, added salt, processed foods, and with limited if any animal products seem to be where the data is pointing us.

“It is important for clinicians to stay on top of rising food trends and current scientific evidence to provide meaningful and accurate nutritional advice for patients.”

Legumes, which encompasses beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas and soybeans have been shown to successfully reduce coronary heart disease and improve blood glucose, LDL-C, systolic blood pressure and weight.

“Legumes are affordable and a rich source of protein,” Freeman said. “We should be incorporating more beans and bean-dishes like hummus into our diets to promote heart health.”

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