February is National Heart Awareness Month!

February 9, 2009

healthyheart1Heart Disease is the #1 killer among women and #2 among men. While our genetics plays a role, your lifestyle also plays a significant role in your heart health. Here are 10 eating strategies for keeping a healthy heart.


1. Reduce your intake of Saturated Fats, Trans Fats, and Cholesterol.

a. Saturated fats, primarily found in animal sources including meat and whole milk dairy products, raise the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish and nuts. Also avoid vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and foods made with these oils, which also contain saturated fat.

b. Trans fat are formed by a process called hydrogenation when a liquid vegetable oil is transformed into a transfatsolid fat. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease, as well as lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Primary sources of trans fat are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

c. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is present in all animal cells. Cholesterol is found in egg yolks, organ meats, meat, poultry, ice cream, butter, cheese and whole milk. Cholesterol in food can directly effect blood cholesterol levels.

2. Choose heart healthy oils and fats. Oils such as olive, canola, margarines labeled “trans fat free”, or smartbalancecholesterol lowering margarines, such as Smart Balance or Benecol can actually protect the heart.

3. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. This type of dietary fiber is associated with lower cholesterol and reduction of heart disease.fiber

4. Choose whole grains. Whole grains contain several nutrients and dietary fiber that promote heart health. Choose 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice instead of white, whole wheat pasta, and high fiber cereals such as bran flakes and oats.

5. Eat fish at least two times per week. Fatty fishes like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit the heart. Other foods such as tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed, and their oils contains one type of fatty acid that becomes omega-3 in the body.

no_salt6. Decrease salt intake. A high salt diet can raise blood pressure, which puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease. It is not enough to simply avoid using the salt shaker. Salt is rampant in our food supply. To lower salt intake avoid canned, processed, and convenient foods. Choose mostly fresh foods, such as fresh meat, fish, vegetables, cheese whenever possible. Limit high sodium condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, and seasonings containing salt. Instead choose natural herbs and spices such as garlic, onion, and Mrs. Dash substitutes.

7. Keep Portions Moderate. In recent years, portions in restaurants have increased significantly, thus changing our perception of what an adequate portion is. Consistently eating large portions can increase weight and cause overweight/obesity, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. To ensure a balanced plate, consider a medium dinner plate filled half with vegetables, a quarter with grains and another quarter with 3-4 ounces of lean meat or protein.

8. Consume alcohol in moderation. Research shows that all types of alcohol (in moderation) can raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and reduce negative effects of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Red-wine appears to have a greater effect than other types of alcohol.

9. Avoid stress while eating. While stress is not good for your heart in any situation, stress while eating relaxed-eatingmay cause you to not pay attention to your food intake. It may also cause indigestion. Enjoy your meals in a relaxed environment, with nice lighting or candles.

10. Listen to your body. Staying mindful of your body’s internal hunger and fullness cues is a natural way to help regulate your food intake and avoid overeating, which can contribute to excess weight, leading to heart disease.


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