Heart-Healthy Eating

Posted by Hilary Young on February 28, 2014

Heart-Healthy Eating

By Guest Blogger Robin Amylon

February was American Heart Health Month. Cardiovascular disease is currently the leading cause of death in the United States--about 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s a whopping 1 in every 4 deaths. Your risk of developing heart disease increases with age, however it is not inevitable. Just by living a healthy lifestyle, such as consuming a healthy diet and participating in regular physical activity, you can greatly decrease your risk of heart disease and death. Here are some heart healthy eating tips to keep your heart beating strong.

  • Limit your saturated fat intake. Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and can lead to excess body fat. It is found predominantly in animal products such as fatty meat, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, whole milk, cream butter, ice cream and cheese. It is recommended that saturated fat make up less than 7% of your daily total calories. Reduce your intake of saturated fat by consuming chicken breast without the skin, lean cuts of meat, skim or 1% milk and by grilling, broiling, steaming, or baking your food instead of frying.
  • Limit your trans fat intake. Trans fats are man-made and formed when unsaturated fats are hydrogenated (a process which changes liquid vegetable oils into a more solid fat product). Trans fats are the least healthy of all the types of fat. They not only increase LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) but they also decrease HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol). Trans fats increase your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Trans fats are primarily found in vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oil, deep fried foods, commercially baked goods and most margarines Food labels are now required to show the amount of trans fat a food contains. However, if the label indicates that there are zero grams of trans fat it does not necessarily mean the product has no trans fats. The government allows 0.5 grams or less of trans fat to be considered zero. To see if a food item contains any trans fat look at the ingredients list for the words “partially hydrogenated.” If any partially hydrogenated oils are listed in the ingredients list then the food product contains trans fat. It is recommended to keep your trans fat intake as low as possible.
  • Limit your sodium intake. A low sodium diet can help improve blood pressure and help prevent fluid accumulation in your body. It is recommended that you limit your salt intake to less than 2,000mg per day. Read the nutrition facts label and try to choose foods that have no more than 140mg of sodium per serving. Foods with more than 300mg of sodium per serving should be avoided. Remember to also check the serving sizes when looking at the nutrition facts label as you may be consuming more than one serving of that particular food. In that case you would need to multiply the amount of sodium per serving times the number of servings you will be having. Foods high in sodium include:
    • Salt: a tsp of table salt has ~600mg sodium
    • Processed foods: salt is added in large amounts to help preserve foods to increase their shelf life
    • Canned products: soups, stews, gravy mixes, beans and vegetables.
    • Snack foods: chips, crackers, popcorn and salted pretzels
    • Frozen foods: dinners, entrees, vegetables with sauces
    • Packaged starchy foods: seasoned noodles or rice dishes, stuffing mix, macaroni and cheese
    • Meats and cheeses: deli or luncheon meats (bologna, ham, turkey, roast beef, etc.), cured or smoked meats, and all cheeses
    • Condiments, sauces and seasonings: mustard, ketchup and salad dressing. Barbecue, pizza, chili, steak, soy or horseradish sauce. Any seasoning that has the word “salt” in the name or on the label. Season your foods with herbs and spices, pepper, vinegar, lemon or lime juice instead.
    • Pickles and olives
  • Increase your fiber intake. A diet high in soluble fiber can lower LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol). An extra 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day is associated with a 5% reduction in LDL cholesterol. Shoot for 20-30 grams of dietary fiber/day. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dried beans are good sources of fiber. Aim for 5 cups of fruits and vegetables/day.
  • Eat more omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats benefit health by increasing HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) and lowering LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol). This helps to reduce the risk of developing heart disease as well as other diseases. Good sources of omega-3 fats include salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Aim to eat fish at least twice a week. Other good sources of omega-3 fats include walnuts, canola and soybean oil and flaxseed.

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