Eating for a Healthy Heart and a Healthy Weight

Eating for a Healthy Heart and a Healthy Weight

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February is National Heart Month. Learn how to eat your way to a healthier heart this February. 

To keep your heart healthy and protect your heart against coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease, your diet can be the first line of defense. A heart healthy diet helps to keep your arteries clean, clear, and healthy, so that your body can have the best possible blood and oxygen flow for healthy circulation, a healthy heart, and lower risk of heart attack and stroke. There are two types of cholesterol in the body. LDL cholesterol, or unhealthy cholesterol, can lead to plaque formation and artery blockage if there is too much. HDL cholesterol, or healthy cholesterol, can help to clear the unhealthy cholesterol from the arteries, keeping them clear and healthy. A heart healthy diet helps to reduce the amount of unhealthy cholesterol in the blood while increasing the amount of healthy cholesterol in the blood. Eating more fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, limiting sodium in the diet, maintaining a healthy weight, using olive oil, canola oil, or safflower oil in your cooking, and eating more low-fat protein and low-fat dairy sources are all simple ways to make your diet more heart healthy.
Consume 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber per day. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dried beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.) are good sources of fiber. Aim to make ½ of every meal or half of every plate fruits or vegetables, for a total of 5 servings or more per day. Fruits and vegetables meet all 3 heart-health factors. They contain almost no fat or sodium, no cholesterol, and no saturated fat. Use whole grains as your starch or carbohydrate source whenever possible to increase daily fiber. Brown rice, oats and oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and whole wheat bread products are all versatile whole grains which should be included in a heart healthy diet daily.
Keep the total amount of fat (including heart-healthy fats) to 25-30% of the calories you eat. Each gram of fat provides more calories than any other nutrient. So, high-fat foods also tend to be high in calories ―and weight gain is a result of consumption of excessive calories that are not used by the body. In order to limit saturated fat it is best to trim down your intake of high-fat meats and high-fat dairy and limit the portion size of all added fats like oils, butter, cream.
Limit cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet. Limit high-fat meats and dairy. Choose only low-fat dairy, such as low-fat or fat free yogurt, milk, or cheese. Consume lean protein sources such as chicken, turkey, tuna, fish, boneless pork loin, and egg whites. Plant sources of protein contain almost no cholesterol or saturated fat. Increase your intake of beans and soy. Foods high in saturated fats include marbled or fatty meat, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, regular hamburger, ice cream, whole milk, cream, and butter. Buttermilk is a low-fat alternative. Non-fat yogurt and milk are excellent calcium and protein sources and should be a top choice amongst dairy products. The amount of total cholesterol consumed daily should be ideally less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day. Foods high in cholesterol include egg yolks, fatty meat, whole milk, cheese, shrimp, lobster and crab.

What about eggs? The dietary quality of an egg is determined by the diet of the chicken that laid it. Chickens are being fed more omega-3 fatty acid sources which may actually be lowering the cholesterol content of the egg and increasing the healthy fat content. So, don’t swear off eggs. They are a great source of B vitamins, and eggs are actually the very best protein source there is! Limit yourself to one egg yolk per day, but try using more egg whites to increase the protein in your diet without increasing the cholesterol and saturated fat. Eggs can even serve as the main protein component of a meal. Check out over delicious egg recipes on the website

Trans fats are found in stick margarine, shortening, some fried foods, and packaged foods made with hydrogenated oils. Limit or avoid trans fats as much as possible.

Eat more omega-3 fats to increase your body’s healthy cholesterol. Fish, nuts, and healthy oils are sources of omega-3 fats. Salmon, tuna, and mackerel are fatty fishes which are rich in omega-3s. Aim to eat fish twice a week. Use olive oil, canola, safflower, corn, or soybean oil in your cooking or as a dressing in order to increase your omega-3 intake. Flaxseed is another source of omega-3 fats. Use it in cooking or add flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed to cereals and ready-to-eat foods.
You can eat a heart healthy diet every day. A heart healthy diet is simple, fun, and delicious! A heart healthy diet is colorful, with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and herbs. With all the flavor a heart healthy diet has to offer, why not stick to it every day?