Heart healthy eating–part two

In the last post I offered three ways to decrease risk of heart disease: increase fiber with fruits and veggies; choose good carbs such as whole grains (also sources of fiber); and avoid the unhealthy fats.  Here are a few more suggestions.

4.  Replace unhealthy fats with healthy versions.

Healthy fats include unsaturated types found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, soy products, flax, and wheat germ.  Fatty fish are recommended, too, for the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.   These include salmon, sardines, mackerel, and halibut.  Try to include two servings a week.

Do you like a spread on your bread or potato?  Choose soft, tube margarines without tropical oils over the stick variety. Or, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on your bread.  But just a bit.  A tablespoon is about 125 calories.

Remember that even the healthy fats pack a lot of calories.  So replace the unhealthy fats with healthy fats and do not just add them to your current intake.  

And, avoid fried foods.  Bake, broil, and roast instead.

5.  Reduce salt.

We eat too much salt.  People who are salt sensitive respond with elevated blood pressure. The guidelines for salt are now at 1500 mg per day, according to the American Heart Association.  The Dietary Guidelines are a bit more lenient, suggesting 2300 mg per day for healthy folks.  To decrease your salt intake, look for foods with less than 200 mg per serving.  

Limit processed foods such as cured meats, pickled foods, canned foods with salt, and savory snacks.  Soy sauce is a big offender.  Instead, try spices, herbs, and lemon to flavor dishes.  Choose the lower salt versions of beef and chicken broth.  These may not be at eye level on the grocery shelves, but they are available!

Eating more fruits and vegetables will help, too, because these foods are natural sources of potassium and can help lower blood pressure. 

With these guidelines in mind, check out some of the instant rice and potato mixes the next time you are shopping and see how much sodium is in a serving.  You will be surprised.

6.  Review healthy eating plans to help make dietary changes. 

There are several eating plans that can help put these recommendations together. The Mediterranean Diet in one that I like.  It includes whole grains, fruits and veggies, less meat, and, of course, olive oil,  It is not a low-fat diet, but a well-rounded one. 

Or consider the Dash Diet.  This diet plan is receiving good press as a way to lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, and prevent kidney stones.  The Dash Diet is a medium-fat eating plan, focusing on fruits and veggies, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

7.  Reduce the added sugars that you consume

I don’t think that sugar is a poison or the cause of all our ills.  But I do think that we eat too much in the form of baked goods and sweetened drinks.  A person can drink a lot of calories in the form of sugar before feeling full.  And  a high intake of sugar can cause weight gain and an increase in triglycerides, which can lead to heart disease. Get your sweet fix from fruit, limit yourself to one serving of juice per day, and drink water flavored with lemon or lime.  I do like stevia for an artificial sweetener.  But don’t overdo the artificial sweeteners, either.

Bonus:  A word on chocolate.

Yes, dark chocolate is heart-healthy.  The thought is that compounds in cocoa may protect against heart disease by reducing inflammation and improving cholesterol levels. But remember that chocolate does contain fat, and therefore is a source of considerable calories if eaten in large amounts.  If you enjoy chocolate, choose dark chocolate with at least 60% cocoa solids.

Which suggestion will you try today?





Heart healthy eating–part one

Heart disease is the number one killer of women.  There are several ways to reduce the risk of heart disease in both women and men, including regular exercise and good nutrition.  Here are a few dietary ways to boost your heart health.  If your eating habits need some tweaking,  start with one suggestion and slowly add the rest to decrease your risk of heart disease.

1.  Increase fiber with fruits and veggies.

Adult women need at least 25 grams of fiber every day, and men can handle more.  This includes both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber.  The former is found in the bran layer of grains and in fruit and vegetable peels.  The latter is found in the flesh of fruits and veggies and some grains such as barley, oats, dried beans and peas, apples, prunes, oranges, sweet potatoes, passion fruit, and psyllium (found in All Bran Buds and Metamucil).

Soluble fiber dissolves in water–for example, pectin–whereas insoluble fiber like bran does not. Soluble fiber is particularly useful in helping to lower LDL cholesterol. To lower cholesterol, 10 grams of soluble fiber is a good amount to consume daily.  How much is that?  If you include one cup of oatmeal, one-half cup of beans, one cup of broccoli, and an orange or pear for a snack in your day, you will have approximately eight to ten grams of soluble fiber.

For daily fruit and vegetable intake, adults should aim for four to four and one-half cups a day, depending on your calorie intake.  If you have some fruits and veggies at each meal and with snacks, this amount is doable.  Another way to look at this is to make sure that one half of your plate is covered with these foods.  If you prefer, think of this as 8 to 9 one half cup servings each day.

2.  Choose good carbs such as whole grains.

To be a whole grain product, the first ingredient on a label must be described as whole, such as whole wheat, whole rye, etc.  These products often have the claim of 100% whole grain on the package or may show the whole grain stamp.  The current recommendation is for three servings a day, each serving being one ounce.

If grains are boring, try something new such as quinoa, bulgur, or buckwheat.  Barley is a versatile grain than is not just for soup anymore.  Barley can be made into salads, pilafs, and side dishes.

3.  Avoid the not-so-healthy fats.

We don’t have to avoid all fat anymore, as was the suggestion in the ’90’s.  But there are some fats that are definitely not good for our hearts.  First of all, get rid of the trans fats in your diet.  Trans fats are created when oils are changed to solid fats.  Think can of Crisco.  These solid fats have been treated with hydrogen (hydrogenated) to render them shelf stable and less likely to turn rancid than the oil version.  However, the trans fats that result can raise LDL cholesterol and thus increase heart disease risk.

The FDA has determined that trans fats are not safe and should be eliminated from our processed foods.  Until this happens, be sure to check the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated fats.  This terminology indicates that there are trans fats in the food, even if the label states zero trans fats.  Manufacturers can list zero if the amount is below 0.5 grams.

Also, cut back on saturated fat found in full-fat dairy, meats, tropical oils, and processed foods (cupcakes, donuts, etc.).  Look for cuts of round and loin when shopping for meat and skip the bacon and highly marbled cuts.

Want to learn more?  Stay tuned for part two!