Heart Disease is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the artery walls causing a narrowing of those walls. Once this occurs, there is reduced blood flow to the heart, which eventually can cause blockages and possibly a heart attack. There are many risk factors involved in the development of heart disease, some of which you cannot control. The diet, however, is a risk factor that you can control. Controlling your diet also helps you to control cholesterol levels, weight, and blood pressure, which are also risk factors. Key factors in following a heart healthy diet include: Choosing low-fat or lean proteins, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and high fiber foods, weight control, limiting sodium and being cautious when going out to eat.
Limit fat and cholesterol. Some examples of foods high in fat and cholesterol include butter, lard, hydrogenated margarine, cream sauces, coconut, palm and cottonseed oils, cocoa butter and bacon fat. Excess fat in the diet can contribute to weight gain and elevated cholesterol levels. These are both risk factors for heart disease.
- Keep saturated fat in your diet less than 7 percent of your daily calories since saturated fats contribute to plaque formation in artery walls
- Restrict trans fats in your diet since they act similar to saturated fats in your body
- Dietary cholesterol should be less than 300 milligrams daily
- If you have elevated LDL or “bad” cholesterol, decrease cholesterol to less than 200 milligrams daily
- Limit total fat intake to less than 30% of your calories per day
- Use unsaturated oils to cook with (e.g., olive, peanut, soy, sunflower, canola)
- Choose oil based salad dressings instead of creamy ones
- Grill, boil, broil, bake or steam foods instead of frying to decrease total fat intake
Choose low-fat proteins.
- Most saturated fats come from animal sources so it’s important to eat lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, fish, low fat dairy and egg whites
- Non-meat low-fat proteins include: dried beans, legumes, soy based products and tofu
Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Skim or 1% cow’s milk is recommended
- Soy or almond milk are both low-fat and nutrient dense
- Eat low-fat or fat-free cheeses
- Nonfat or low-fat yogurt is a healthy option
- Soy-based cheeses
Eat more omega-3 fats. They have been shown to be beneficial for heart health by raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Animal sources include: salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines
- Aim for fish twice per week
- Other sources include: walnuts, canola and soybean oil
- Fish oil supplements are another source, although they do not contain other nutrients found in the food sources
Eat nuts and seeds 3 days per week. They have been shown to improve blood pressure.
- 5 to 6 nuts is a serving size for mixed nuts, almonds, cashews and pecan halves
- Read food labels to determine serving size for other nuts and seeds
Eat more fruits and vegetables daily. They have been shown to improve blood pressure.
- 5 servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended daily
- Choose fresh or frozen without added fat or salt; unlike canned produce, frozen fruits and vegetables retain vitamin and mineral content
- Have 2 tbsp. of dried fruit as a snack instead of candy
- Cut up fresh pieces of fruits and vegetables to have them ready for regular snacks
- Try ones you’ve never had before to diversify your diet as well as to ensure that you obtain as many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as you can
- Make them the main part of your meal at least once daily
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