Personal Health : A heart-healthy way to eat.

There are no ''good'' foods and ''bad'' foods. Rather, it's your overall dietary pattern that matters most when it comes to healthful eating.

That's the main message from the American Heart Association in its latest nutrition guidance to improve the hearts and health of Americans of all ages and life circumstances.

The experts who wrote the recommendations recognize that people don't eat nutrients or individual ingredients. They eat foods, and most people want to enjoy the foods they eat while staying within their budgets and, the association hopes, without injuring their bodies.

This doesn't mean you need to totally avoid Big Macs, Cokes and french fries, but it does mean you should not regularly indulge in such fare if you want to stay healthy.

Dr. Robert H. Eckel, a former president of the American Heart Association, and an endocrinologist and lipid specialist at the University of Colorado Denver, told me he '' occasionally '' indulges in foods outside a wholesome dietary pattern. The operative word here, though, is ''occasionally.''

Dr. Neil J. Stone, a preventive cardiologist at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, who praised the thoughtfulness and expertise of the guidance committee, said in an interview. '' There's no such thing as one diet that fits all, but there are principles to form the basis of diets that fit everyone.''

He added : ''The goal is to make good nutrition possible for all. The healthier we can keep everybody in the world, the lower the health costs will be.''

In the past 15 years since the heart association last issued dietary guidelines to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, almost nothing has changed for the better. The typical American diet, for example, has remained highly processed.

Americans consume too much added sugars, artery clogging, fats, refined starches, red meat and salt and don't eat enough nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains that can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But rather than become discouraged, the association decided to try a different approach. For too long, nutrition advice has been overly focused on individual nutrients and ingredients, Alice H. Lichtenstein, the guidelines chief author, told me, and it hasn't been focused enough on overall dietary patterns that can best fit people's lives and budgets.

So instead of a laundry list of ''thou shalt not eats,'' Dr. Lichtenstein said, the association's committee on nutrition and cardiovascular disease chose to promote heart-healthy dietary patterns that could suit a wide range of tastes and eating habits.

In avoiding ''no noes'' and dietary revolutions, the new guidance can foster gradual evolutionary changes meant to last a lifetime.

The committee recognised that for people to adopt and stick to wholesome dietary pattern, it should accommodate personal likes and dislikes, ethnic and cultural practices and life circumstances, and it should consider whether most meals are consumed at home or on the go.

For example, rather than urging people to skip pasts because it's a refined carbohydrate, a more effective message might be to tell people to eat it the traditional Italian way, as a small first-course portion.

Or, if pasta is your main course, choose a product made from an unrefined carbohydrate like whole wheat, brown rice or lentils.

''We'are talking about lifelong changes that incorporate personal preferences, culinary traditions and what's available where people shop and eat,'' said Dr. Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at the Friedman School at Tufts University.

The advice is evidence-based and applies to everything people eat regardless of where the food is procured, prepared and consumed.''

The publishing continues to Part 2. The World Students Society thanks author Jane E. Brody.


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