5 Ways to Take a Bite Out of Heart Disease

February 8, 2012 at 9:42 am Leave a comment

1. Limit Sodium
Salt may make food taste better, but it also can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels, which increases the risk for heart disease. The federal recommendation for most Americans is up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, though most people eat much more than that. For people with diabetes that intake limit drops to 1,500 mg daily.

While your first order of business may be to hold the salt at the dinner table or replace salt with spices and herbs—excellent ideas and a step in the right direction—it might not have the impact you hope for. That’s because packaged foods and restaurant meals are the real culprits. Limiting those foods can help. “If someone really wants to follow a 1,500-milligram sodium diet, they can’t eat out [often]. It’s going to be a treat for them,” says Jennifer Neily, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian in private practice in Dallas.

Also a problem are processed meats, such as bacon, salami, bologna, and pastrami, which are all high in sodium. “Honestly, turkey bacon is not any more healthy than regular bacon,” says Neily. “When it comes down to the sodium content, it’s often worse.”

For a list of alternate seasonings to help reduce your salt and sodium intake, click here.  

2. Get Smart About Fat
The fat you eat is a direct player in heart disease, which is why a heart-healthy eating plan limits saturated fat and eliminates trans fats. Saturated fat, found mostly in meat, full-fat dairy, butter, and coconut and palm oils, is solid at room temperature and can raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Even worse: trans fats, which are typically artificial and added to processed foods to maintain their shelf life.

But not all fats are harmful to your heart, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in plant-based foods such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts; polyunsaturated fats are found in foods such as soybean and safflower oils, fish, and walnuts.

3. Choose Your Meats Wisely
Since saturated fat is a no-no for heart health, be selective about what meat you eat. Red meats such as beef, lamb, and venison are high in saturated fat. Opt for lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey, pork tenderloin or loin roast (but not ham or bacon, which are high in sodium), and fish.

4. Pick the Right Kind of Dairy
Eating full-fat dairy can easily add too much saturated fat to your eating plan. “Just 1 ounce of cheese has 6 grams—half of a woman’s daily budget—of saturated fat,” says Neily. “An ounce is about the size of your thumb. That’s not a whole lot of cheese.” You can eat your daily allowance of saturated fat in cheese, but it’s going to be less than satisfying. Welcome 1% or skim milk and low-fat cheese and yogurt to your table to get the calcium and other nutrients you need.

5. Picture Your Plate
“A heart-healthy diet is really just good, healthy eating and what we encourage the general population to eat anyway,” says Neily. Fruits and vegetables are staples of a heart-healthy diet as are mono- and polyunsaturated fats, carbs from whole grains, and protein in the form of lean meats, fish, beans, and tofu.

If you’re struggling to get the hang of it, try visualizing your plate. Half of it should be filled with nonstarchy veggies such as broccoli and asparagus. A quarter should hold whole grains such as brown rice, barley, and quinoa. And the final quarter should contain your protein.

For more information on creating a well rounded, diabetes friendly meal, visit the nutrition section of the DiabetesAmerica website.

* Adapted from Diabetes Forecast Magazine, http://forecast.diabetes.org *

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Entry filed under: Diabetes, Diet/Nutrition, Health, Healthy Lifestyle. Tags: , .

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