Eating for Health
Tips to keep you on track
A heart healthy lifestyle includes both regular exercise and a healthy diet. Poor dietary choices can contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.
The main dietary components that, when consumed in excess, have the most negative heart consequences are saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium. Excess calories can result in becoming overweight or obese which is damaging to the heart.
Saturated fats are abundant in fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard, and eggs. All of these sources are from animals. Plant-based sources of saturated fats include coconut, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. To reduce saturated fats, choose leans cuts of meat and poultry, limit whole eggs to 4 per week, and use low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Use a soft tub margarine instead of butter. Avoid products that use coconut, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.
The majority of trans fats that we eat come from oils that have been chemically changed to be solid a room temperature. This process is called hydrogenation and it results in trans fats that are very damaging to our health. Avoid all products that have trans fats. Make sure to read the ingredient list of food products and do not use products that list partially hydrogenated oils as an ingredient.
Excess sodium in the diet can increase blood pressure so reducing the sodium in the diet helps protect the heart. The first step to reducing sodium is to stop using salt at the table and during cooking. The next step is to limit the use of convenience products such as frozen dinners, boxed pasta, rice, and potato dishes, canned soups, and cured and salted products as these are very high in sodium. Restaurant meals are generally very salty so limiting how often you eat out can further reduce the sodium in your diet.
Carrying excessive weight contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain cancers. To determine whether you are overweight or obese, calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) at www.nhlbi.nih.gov. If your BMI is between 25.0-29.9 then you are considered overweight. If your BMI is greater than 30 then you are obese. Losing weight will reduce your risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers.
Additional tips on improving your diet
• Cook with less fat. Broil, bake, grill, poach, or steam instead of frying your food. When you need to use some fat to cook with, choose a small amount of olive or canola oil.
• Trim visible fat from meats and poultry
• Aim to eat fish at least twice a week. Fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna are particularly good sources of omega 3 fats which are heart healthy. Just don’t fry the fish!
• Incorporate meatless meals into your menu. This will help to further reduce the saturated fats in your diet. Beans, tofu, and tempeh are plant-based protein sources that are healthy.
• Beware of what you drink. Optimally, select water or unsweetened teas to drink. Avoid regular sodas, fruit juices, and other sweetened drinks as they provide excessive calories. Occasionally, an artificially sweetened beverage is okay but not as your primary source of fluids. Water really is best.
• If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Moderation is defined as one drink per day for women and two for men. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor.
• Involve the whole family in healthy eating by the Strive for Five way.
More Health Resources:
1. American Heart Association
2. American Diabetes Association
3. American Institute for Cancer Research
4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for DASH diet and assessment tools
5. Eating guidelines and food labels
6. National Institute of Health
7. Shape Up America
8. America on the Move
Healthy Living Recipes
Presbyterian Health Plan: