Cardiovascular diseases are the global problem of modernity. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and alcohol and tobacco use.
The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, also called the TLC diet, is an approach created by the National Institutes of Health that aims at improving heart health and reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. The main lifestyle changes promoted by the TLC diet are giving up unhealthy dietary habits and a sedentary lifestyle and introducing heart-healthy nutrition and regular physical activity.
The primary focus of dietary interventions in the TLC diet is on changing the type of fats you eat and introducing foods that can help decrease cholesterol levels. In particular, soluble fiber, plant sterols, and stanols are found to lower cholesterol.
The following are guidelines for the TLC diet:
- consume only enough calories to maintain your weight;
- ingest 10-25 g of soluble fiber each day;
- consume at least 2 g of plant sterols and stanols daily;
- get 25-35% of daily calories from fats;
- get less than 7% of daily calories from trans fats;
- reduce dietary cholesterol consumption to less than 200 mg per day;
To decrease trans fats, saturated fats, and overall fat consumption, avoid eating:
- fatty meat cuts
- skin from poultry
- egg yolks
- processed meats
- processed foods
- full-fat dairy
- fried foods
The TLC diet suggests including fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and legumes in your meals. Alongside fiber, these food groups are rich in vitamins and minerals.
In addition to dietary adjustments, the TLC diet promotes engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day. You can choose walking, swimming, running, cycling, or any other activity you enjoy.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women and athletes shouldn’t follow the TLC diet since the calorie intake is too low and may be unsustainable for these individuals. People with specific dietary restrictions due to their health condition should consult with their doctor to adjust the TLC diet.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
The TLC diet doesn’t restrict any food groups, so you are unlikely to develop any nutritional deficiencies while following it.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
The TLC diet highlights the importance of ingesting enough soluble dietary fiber. In addition to benefiting heart health, soluble fiber consumption can improve blood sugar levels. However, according to statistics, Americans’ average daily fiber intake is significantly lower than the recommended amount.
So, how can you increase soluble fiber in your diet? The following are some tips that can help you to do so:
- Add black, kidney, and lima beans, lentils, and chickpeas to your meals.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and berries high in soluble fiber include apples, pears, avocados, oranges, apricots, figs, nectarines, blueberries, and strawberries. Vegetables high in this type of fiber are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
- Whenever possible, don’t remove peel from fruits and vegetables while eating them.
- Choose fresh fruits instead of juices since juices don’t have any fiber.
- Use oat bran to toss with salad, yogurt, or breakfast cereals.
- Eat oats as a part of your breakfast.
The TLC diet is an approach that involves dietary interventions along with physical activity and aims at improving heart health, decreasing cholesterol levels, and lowering the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
The TLC diet encourages eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes while cutting trans fats and saturated fats. However, some individuals may find this nutritional approach too restrictive and unsustainable due to low daily calorie intake goals.