What A Longevity-Focused MD Eats In A Day For Optimal Heart Health
If you're serious about protecting your cardiovascular health, you'll want to start prioritizing high-quality protein. See, protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so it can ease hunger and prevent overeating1, reducing one's likelihood of developing obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Plenty of experts would agree, including longevity-focused doctor Peter Attia, M.D., author of Outlive: "Protein is the most important macronutrient in that regard," the Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and NIH-trained physician shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. And yet, so many of us still don't get enough of it for optimal health. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, but "that has been misinterpreted as the ideal amount of protein intake," he adds. "In reality, it's the bare minimum to not wither away."
Rather, Attia actually recommends 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (which tallies up to around 110 to 180 grams per day). To surpass this threshold, he personally aims for the higher end of the spectrum, with about 45 grams of protein per serving, with four servings per day.
What comprises those servings, you might ask? "It's actually surprisingly consistent from day to day," he notes. Below, find his go-to menu:
First up: Attia is a fan of eggs. Generally, you can find 6 grams of protein per normal-sized egg, so Attia likes to make a scramble with seven to eight. "Eight egg whites and four yolks gives me the right dose [of protein]," he notes.
The yolks are particularly high in vitamin K2, which is known to be especially heart-healthy. In fact, a study on over 4,800 Dutch men and women2 said high vitamin K2 intake (greater than 32.7 micrograms per day) was associated with a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease mortality, compared to low vitamin K2 intake (less than 21.6 micrograms per day).
"My favorite snack is venison sticks," Attia says, particularly the all-natural jerky sticks from Maui Nui: "There's nothing in them but venison and pepper, basically," he adds. "Each stick is 9.8 grams [of protein], so I'll have five of those sticks as a snack."
Some days he'll opt for a protein shake, which always includes 50 grams of whey protein, cashew milk, frozen berries, and banana. "[It's] relatively low in calories but very high in protein," he says.
Whey is a high-quality complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids3—namely, the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are well research and praised for their benefits regarding muscle protein synthesis4. Perhaps that's why research5 has found that whey protein can improve body composition and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease in people with obesity.
As for Attia's alternative milk preference? "I just love the taste," he admits. "And I'm a little bit lactose intolerant."
Greek yogurt bowl
"Another strategy that I'll use is Greek yogurt," he says regarding midday snacks. He loves to create a yogurt bowl using 2% Greek yogurt and granola. "There's a company called UCAN that makes a really good granola using SuperStarch and nuts," he shares. "I'll put that granola into 50 grams' worth of Greek yogurt, which is quite a bit."
Yes, to reach 50 grams of protein, you would need to eat a lot of yogurt—we're talking like a whole 32-ounce tub of the stuff. Attia does love his yogurt bowls, but if you'd prefer a less caloric option, perhaps opt for the jerky sticks or protein shake as a snack.
Meat & fish
Dinner is perhaps the easiest meal for Attia to hit his protein mark; generally, intake is often skewed toward the evening meal6, whereas breakfast is where most folks fall short. "I'm just going to rotate through different types of meat or fish at dinner," Attia says, and that should easily get him to his benchmark of 45 grams.
If you are going the seafood route, know that a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon with skin7 provides a whopping 60 grams of protein. Sardines, another excellent source of protein and healthy fats, contains 22.6 grams of protein8 per can and is loaded with calcium, B12, and the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA. You may think that lean proteins are better for heart health, and that may be true to some extent—but it's not always the case.
In fact, recent research9 shows that healthy sources of saturated fat10 aren't strongly linked with increased heart disease risk and that overall dietary intake is what's most important. You can read more about that here.
It's no secret that diet plays a huge role in cardiovascular health, but protein intake doesn't receive nearly as much attention as it should. Protein, after all, is a building block of muscles, and muscle mass is a predictor of longevity and health span. That being said, you do need to actually use your muscles to build muscle mass—eating protein alone won't cut it. Not to fret: Here, Attia walks through his favorite longevity-focused exercises.
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Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.