Seven Steps to a Healthy Heart
1. Limit how much saturated and trans fats you eat
2. Choose from sources of low-fat proteins
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables
4. Select whole grains
5. Reduce salt intake
6. Eat in moderation
7. Create daily menus and plan
• Saturated Fat - Less than 7 percent of your total daily calories.
• Trans Fat - Less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.
• Cholesterol - Less than 300 milligrams a day for healthy adults; less than 200 milligrams a day for adults with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol or those who are taking cholesterol-lowering medication.
The best way to limit saturated and trans fats is to limit the amount of solid fats such as butter, margarine and shortening. These are commonly used and included into our foods. Avoid fried foods or use substitutes wherever possible. For example use low-fat sour cream or salsa on a baked potato instead of butter and sour cream, or avoid frying meats; broil, bake or barbeque instead. Use olive oil instead of shortening and avoid deep fried foods or battered fried foods.
Do check the food labels, especially those that are labeled "reduced fat" because you may find that these items are substituting fat with oils that contain trans fats. "Partially hydrogenated" is a typical phrase that indicates trans fat so use this as a clue when reading those labels.
The healthier solution is to choose foods that contain monounsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts and seeds, which are also good choices. Both of these types of fat may help to lower your total blood cholesterol - but with moderation because these are still "fats."
• Olive oil
• Canola oil
• Margarine labeled "trans fat-free"
• Cholesterol-lowering margarine or buttery spreads, such as Benecol, Promise or Smart Balance
• Cream sauce
• Nondairy creamers
• Hydrogenated margarine and shortening
• Cocoa butter, found in chocolate
• Coconut, palm, cottonseed and palm-kernel oils
• Skim or low-fat (1 percent) milk
• Fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese
• Egg whites or egg substitutes
• Fish, especially fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon
• Skinless poultry
• Soybeans and soy products, for example, soy burgers
• Lean ground meats
• Whole milk, full-fat milk, cream, butter
• Organ meats, such as liver
• Egg yolks
• Fatty, marbled meats
• Cold cuts, lunch meats
• Frankfurters, hot dogs and sausages
• Fried, breaded, canned foods not low in fat
Eating more fruits and vegetables is actually easier than you think. Choose recipes that include fruits and vegetables in them; keep apples, grapes, peaches on hand; and try new foods such as stir-fry, fruit salads, or even canned fruits and vegetables (with lower sodium and sugar content). Avoid drenching your fruits and vegetables in butter, dressings, sugar, and sauces because these will add back fats and calories which will in the end, defeat your purpose. Also try to avoid breaded and fried vegetables, canned fruits in heavy syrup and coconut.
Flaxseed is another whole grain to add to your diet. Ground flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower your total blood cholesterol. You can easily add ground flaxseed to your foods by stirring in a teaspoon over hot cereal, applesauce or yogurt.
Below is a quick-guide of whole grain food choices:
• Whole-wheat flour
• Whole-grain bread, preferably 100% whole-wheat or 100% whole grain bread
• High-fiber cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving
• Brown rice
• Whole-grain pasta
• Oatmeal (steel-cut or regular)
• Ground flaxseed
• White rice
• Frozen waffles
• Doughnuts, muffins
• Biscuits, rolls, cornbread
• White breads
• Granola bars
• Cakes, pies
• Egg noodles, pastas, boxed noodles
• Bagged or movie popcorn
• Potato chips, corn chips, snack crackers
Salt is added to many foods that are canned, processed, frozen and prepared. Snacks, chips, crackers, soups, frozen dinners all add salt to improve flavor. The best way to reduce salt intake is to eat fresh foods and make your own soups. Another way is to replace salt with salt substitutes, herbs and spices or choose reduced-salt condiments or prepared/processed foods.
A heart-healthy diet also is about maintaining balance and control. Eating enough fruits and vegetables, and not overindulging in empty calories keeps your whole body healthy, not just your heart. It’s ok to treat yourself to your favorite ice cream or candy, just moderate that to once a week and even then, limit the amount you consume. Don’t let your favorite treat become an excuse to abandon your healthy-eating plan, but rather make healthy eating habits the norm.
Use these seven tips as a guide to preventing heart disease and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll regain control of your cholesterol. You’ll also be pleased by how easy it can be to lose weight.
For more information on incorporating healthy habits to create a healthy life style visit www.americanheart.org.