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!