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Eat Your Way to a Healthier Heart!

by Susan Burke March - February 10, 2014 - with 0 Comments


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Eat Your Way to a Healthier Heart!

February is American Heart Month. It’s the time of year when we get reminders like this one from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: heart disease remains the No. 1 killer in America.

Each year, approximately 715,000 Americans are stricken by a heart attack. Worse yet, about 600,000 people will die from heart disease this year – that averages out to one of every four deaths.

Heart disease doesn’t discriminate. It’s the leading cause of death for men and women.

The risk for developing heart disease is linked to a number of factors. Some we control; some are out of our control.

For example, we can’t change our genes and our inherited risk. But we can control much of our environmental risk.

If you smoke… STOP! You’ll lower your risk for heart attack almost immediately – the same for many other diseases, including lung, mouth and other cancers. 

Type 2 diabetes, which doubles the risk for heart attack and stroke, is partially genetic. But there’s no denying that being overweight or obese is often the trigger that shoots the deadly bullet. 

Staying at your healthy weight and being active can reduce or even eliminate your risk for diabetes.

We can eat healthfully… or we can choose not to!

Most of us have plenty of choices about what we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat it. Be honest. Do you take it for granted? Many of us do. But having these choices is one of the best things in life. 

Changing your diet can lower your risk by controlling cholesterol and weight. 

A Heart-Healthy Diet: Myths and Facts

Science is ever changing. I recently wrote an article that details what we thought was heart healthy in the 1940s turns out to be unhealthy for us now. It turns out that converting liquid oil to solid fat by a process called “hydrogenation” produces products (including stick margarine and shortening) that contain trans fats. Consuming them increases your risk for coronary plaque build-up.

At eDiets, we strive to make menus that reflect the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010). Our three major goals:

  • Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight.
  • Consume more of certain foods and nutrients, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood.
  • Consume fewer foods that contain sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and refined grains.

Sodium and Heart Health

Excessive intake of sodium is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. This is especially true for at-risk populations that include the elderly, people with diabetes, and the American minorities that face an even higher risk.

The average American consumes more than 3,400mg of sodium daily. The majority of our sodium comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods.

All of our eDiets meal plans average about 2,300 mg or less daily. The more fresh foods you eat, the less you have to worry about excessive sodium.

Diets high in fiber help lower risk for high cholesterol.

Here are tips for lowering your cholesterol through the foods you eat.

  • Look for “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on the label. If you see words like made with whole grain or multigrain, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label for the amount of fiber per serving.
  • Serve an easy to make fruit salad for dessert—instead of the ‘same old’ apple, pear and orange, choose some ‘super’ papaya, kiwi, cantaloupe—all are extremely good sources of vitamins A and C.
  • Eat whole fruit, instead of drinking fruit juice and save hundreds of calories. 
  • Scrub and eat the skins of most fruits and vegetables.
  • Have a baked apple for dessert: core and fill cavity with a teaspoon each of cinnamon and sugar or non-nutritive sweetener or honey, microwave for approximately 5 minutes until soft. Eat with a tablespoon of yogurt or low or nonfat yogurt. 
  • Keep bags of frozen crunchy vegetables in your freezer. Microwave for snacks (sprinkle with dehydrated butter granules). Add lots of veggies to your stews or soup.
  • Make your own healthy trail mix – a combination of roasted almonds, walnuts, pecans and raisins. A half cup has about 100 calories. 
  • Add fiber-rich fresh or frozen berries to your favorite yogurt. Make a fruit smoothie with a cup each of berries and crushed ice, a half-cup each of nonfat yogurt and milk.
  • Substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour in your recipes.
  • Eat oatmeal or oat cereals for breakfast.

Stay Healthy!

The CDC recommends that for better health you:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay active daily
  • Monitor your blood pressure
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol
  • Check your cholesterol
  • Manage your diabetes
  • Take your medicine!

Have a heart and have a happy, healthy February!

Susan Burke March is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who, as chief nutritionist for eDiets, promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.

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