This post is in honor of National Heart Month!
Despite the fact heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in both women and men, few Americans take precautions to prevent it. A recent survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic found approximately 1/3 of those surveyed are not taking any preventive measures for heart disease. Even more concerning, about 25% of those surveyed with a family risk of heart disease confessed no concern and weren’t following a heart healthy lifestyle.
The good news is following a heart healthy diet can help prevent or even reverse heart disease and its complications. To follow a heart healthy diet you must limit or avoid certain foods and include other heart healthy foods.
Healthy Foods to Include:
1. Choose whole grains. Whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and barley and examples of whole grains - foods that contain the entire grain. Whole grains are typically good sources of fiber, provide increase satiety, and help reduce blood cholesterol levels (which can lower risk of heart disease).
2. Increase fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are known to be healthy for their abundance of vitamins and minerals, but they are also loaded with a filling nutrient, fiber. Including adequate fruits and vegetables in your diet can reduce the consumption of high-fat foods such as fatty meats, cheese, and junk foods.
3. Moderate amounts of unsaturated fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, and possibly increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Good sources of unsaturated fats are olive oil, safflower oil, nuts, seeds, flaxseed, salmon, trout, and sardines. Keep in mind all fats are calorie dense and should be consumed in moderation.
Foods to Limit or Avoid:
1. Reduce unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Increased consumption of saturated and trans fat is correlated with higher blood cholesterol levels and coronary artery disease. Saturated fats are typically found in fat sources solid at room temperature such as fatty meats, dairy, eggs, and butter. Trans fats are found in fried foods, baked goods, stick margarines and shortenings.
2. Restrict sodium intake. Eating a diet with high amounts of sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, one cause of cardiovascular disease. The Department of Agriculture recommends healthy adults limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day. Although reducing the salt you add to food or while cooking is an important part of decreasing sodium, also limit canned or processed foods.
Low Fat Cooking Substitutions
· Top baked potato with salsa or Greek yogurt
· Spread Greek yogurt and fruit on toast and waffles
· Instead of frying apply a light coating of non-sticking cooking spray
· For cream based soups, thicken with pureed cauliflower
· Sauté vegetables in low sodium broth
· Replace sour cream with non fat plain Greek yogurt in casseroles, dips, and spreads
· Choose ground beef that is at least 90% lean
· Select skinless chicken breast
· Spread Greek yogurt on cakes and cupcakes as icing
· Substitute ½ the fat in baked goods with applesauce, mashed bananas, pumpkin, or pureed prunes