What Is the Atlantic Diet & Can It Help Manage Cholesterol?

What Is the Atlantic Diet & Can It Help Manage Cholesterol?

Here’s what registered dietitians have to say about the diet’s potential heart-health benefits.



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Reviewed by Dietitian Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., RD

If you browse social media these days, you may have come across the Atlantic diet. This diet may not have gained the same fanfare as the Mediterranean diet—yet—but it’s making a big splash related to its potential health benefits.

The Atlantic diet is based on the traditional eating patterns of individuals living along Europe’s Atlantic coastlines, particularly in Portugal and northwest Spain.

This eating pattern is like a close relative to the Mediterranean diet, incorporating whole grains, lean meats, fish, legumes, vegetables and fruits. The difference is that the Atlantic diet advises consuming red meat and dairy products in moderation, foods that are not promoted in the Mediterranean diet.

Related: Mediterranean Diet for Beginners: Everything You Need to Get Started

What fired up the Atlantic diet trend? A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who followed the Atlantic diet for six months benefited from a 68% lower incidence of metabolic syndrome compared to controls. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions—high blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides, low “good” HDL cholesterol and a large waistline—that can increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

But should you try the Atlantic diet to better your heart health? Is this the new Mediterranean diet? We talked to three dietitians, and here is what they have to say about the Atlantic diet and how this eating pattern may help you improve your cholesterol levels.

Origins and Principles of the Atlantic Diet

The principles of the Atlantic diet focus on consuming the following foods:

  • Fish and seafood

  • Vegetables and fruits, including dried fruits

  • Whole grains, including bread, pasta, rice, cereals

  • Beans

  • Nuts, particularly chestnuts, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts

  • Milk and cheese

  • Olive oil

It’s also recommended to moderate your intake of meat and wine. One of the main differences between the Atlantic diet and the Mediterranean diet is the increased consumption of red meat, dairy and potatoes on the Atlantic diet.

The Atlantic diet also promotes social and culinary traditions, such as eating with the family and using cooking techniques like stewing, baking, grilling and boiling. For example, stewing is an excellent slow-cooking method to retain nutrients and enhance flavors in foods, according to Michelle Routhenstein, M.S., RD, owner of Entirely Nourished and a registered dietitian specializing in heart health. These cooking traditions can also impact your health in indirect—but still important—ways, which we will address below.

Can the Atlantic Diet Help Lower Cholesterol?

A team of researchers conducted a six-month study that examined the effects of the traditional Atlantic diet on the metabolic health and eating behaviors of more than 200 families from moderate socioeconomic and education levels in a rural town in northwest Spain. The study participants were randomly assigned to two groups: one that followed the Atlantic diet and one that was instructed to follow their usual lifestyle. Those assigned to the Atlantic diet received nutrition education, cooking classes, written materials and foods related to this diet.

Both groups were also asked to complete a three-day food diary to record what they ate, their activity level and medication intake (if any) at the start and the end of the six-month study. They also had their waist circumference and blood pressure measured, and completed a range of bloodwork, noting their cholesterol, triglyceride and fasting blood glucose levels.

The results found that individuals assigned to follow the Atlantic diet had a 68% reduced likelihood of metabolic syndrome, resulting in improvements in their HDL cholesterol level and waist circumference compared to the control group. However, there were no significant differences in blood pressure or high triglycerides or fasting blood glucose levels when the group followed the Atlantic diet compared to the group who ate their usual foods.

Since the study was only conducted for six months, the researchers acknowledge that this might not be long enough to assess how the Atlantic diet may impact one’s metabolic health, and years-long follow-up is needed.

It’s also unclear how long people could stick to the Atlantic diet without the guidance and support from the study itself. For instance, participants who followed the Atlantic diet also received educational sessions and cooking classes during the research period. Education can play a role in influencing someone’s eating behaviors and impacting their health outcomes, says Yendi Caraballo Lopez, M.S., RDN, director of nutrition systems at Morrison Healthcare.

What’s more, people who took part in the research study received foods pertaining to the Atlantic diet at no cost. In the real world, people may not be able to fully adhere to the Atlantic diet without this assistance, as social determinants of health, such as culture, income, education, living environment and more, all impact one’s food choices.

Despite the limitations, overall, registered dietitians say the Atlantic diet may help lower cholesterol, but this depends on your food choices. “The Atlantic diet contains small amounts of meat and dairy products, which can be high in saturated fat and negatively contribute to increased cholesterol levels. What is more important to note is that [the diet] is rich in plant-based foods, such as whole grains, beans, lentils and whole nuts, which can increase soluble fiber to help lower cholesterol levels,” says Routhenstein. You’ll want to look at the amount of saturated fat you’re getting from red meat and dairy on this diet, as well as ensure you’re choosing foods, like whole grains, vegetables and beans, that increase your intake of fiber to help you lower your cholesterol levels.

Another plus of the Atlantic diet is the variety. The wide range of food options can make it easy to follow, so it may be more manageable, especially when it keeps in foods that you already love to eat, says Cheryl Mussatto, M.S., RD, owner of Eat Well to Be Well. Even incorporating only two to three principles from the Atlantic diet, such as eating more vegetables and fruits every day or adding seafood at least once weekly, can positively impact your health and well-being, she says.

Other Health Benefits of the Atlantic Diet

Rich in Omega-3 Fats

While the Atlantic diet may not have lowered triglycerides in study participants during the six-month period, high consumption of fish, particularly oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, provides plenty of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels, reducing inflammation and improving overall heart health.

The USDA My Plate recommends eating about 8 ounces of fish and seafood every week, which aligns with the American Heart Association’s recommendation of two to three servings of fish—particularly fatty fish—every week.,

Packed with Potassium and Magnesium

The Atlantic diet focuses on whole foods, particularly vegetables and fruits. Veggies and fruits are rich in potassium and magnesium, the two key nutrients that regulate and stabilize blood pressure.,

High in Fiber

The Atlantic diet highlights plant-based foods, such as whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits. These foods are high in fiber and may help lower the risk of heart disease, stabilize blood sugar levels and improve gut health and overall health.

Brings Connection to the Table

Like the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet emphasizes families eating together. Sharing meals and enjoying food may help the members of the household to develop positive relationships with foods and more nutritious eating patterns, positively influencing their health.

The Bottom Line

Despite the many potential health benefits of the Atlantic diet, for an eating pattern to improve your health it has to align with your lifestyle, cultural habits and preferences, says Routhenstein. If you have an allergy (or aversion) to fish and seafood, this might not be the right plan for you. Although more research on the Atlantic diet needs to be done, this plant-based diet can be a heart-healthy eating plan—especially if you focus on fiber and limit your intake of saturated fats.

EatingWell.com, April 2024

Read the original article on Eating Well.

Source: bing.com

Kerri Waldron

My name is Kerri Waldron and I am an avid healthy lifestyle participant who lives by proper nutrition and keeping active. One of the things I love best is to get to where I am going by walking every chance I get. If you want to feel great with renewed energy, you have to practice good nutrition and stay active.

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