Heart-Healthy Eating Plan

Overview
A heart-healthy diet is one that is low in cholesterol, saturated fats and sodium. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight by following a heart-healthy diet will improve your overall health and reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. If you currently eat an unhealthy diet that is high in salt and fat, try making gradual changes in the way that you eat, setting a goal for a lifestyle change as opposed to a temporary diet. Before beginning any new diet plan, it is a good idea to see your doctor for a physical and for advice about your particular health situation.

Step 1
Reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet to reduce overall cholesterol levels. Use solid fats such as butter, shortening and margarine sparingly, suggests the Mayo Clinic. Replace these foods with lower-fat substitutions such as low-fat yogurt, salsa and fruit spread when possible. Read food labels, and avoid processed foods with large amounts of saturated fat and any amount of trans fats. Cook with heart-healthy oils, such as olive and canola, instead of lard or butter. Look for poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats in cooking oils, and choose these products.

Step 2
Increase the number and variety of fruits and vegetables that you eat. Filling up on fresh produce leaves less room for unhealthy, salt- and fat-laden foods, and also provides your body with the nutrients and vitamins that it needs for good overall health. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are good choices if they do not have salt or sugar added to them.

Step 3
Switch to low-fat dairy products. Use reduced-fat or skim milk, low-fat yogurt and reduced-fat cheese whenever possible. Avoid dairy-free creamers, which often contain trans fats.

Step 4
Eat more fish, lean meats and poultry with the skin removed. Add other forms of heart-healthy protein to your diet, such as legumes and nuts. Cut back on fatty red meat and poultry skin.

Step 5
Choose whole grain products over refined grain foods. Examples of whole grain products include whole wheat bread, high-fiber breakfast cereals, brown rice and oatmeal. Avoid foods made with white flour, such as quick bread mixes, doughnuts, cakes and pies.

Step 6
Cut back on the amount of salt that you consume. Most salt in the average diet is from processed foods. Read labels carefully, and choose lower-sodium products whenever possible. Lowering your sodium intake can lower your blood pressure, which improves your heart health.

Tips and Warnings
* The American Heart Association recommends exercising for 30 minutes per day, five days per week for optimal heart health. Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially if you are overweight or have any health problems.

By Michelle Kulas

References
* Heart Healthy Diet

An Editor’s Review:

“A heart-healthy diet is one that is low in cholesterol, saturated fats and sodium.” I’m getting really sick of these statements that just aren’t exactly true. While it’s a terrible idea to eat a high fat, high salt, high cholesterol diet, eating one that is “low” in these essential nutrients is a bad idea.

Blood cholesterol is an evolutionary marvel. It gives your body immediate fuel. If you are active and eat reasonable levels of fat & cholesterol, there is absolutely no reason to avoid them. In fact, studies have show that most people do not turn food-cholesterol into blood cholesterol so eat those eggs!

As for sodium, a low sodium diet is dangerous and can cause death in hot weather. Certainly, the fact that most Americans eat too much sodium is a problem, but saying low sodium is heart healthy isn’t exactly true. A normal sodium diet is healthy. A high sodium diet is not.

In addition, to add to it is fats, to say low fat and then tell people to eat nuts and fish, they are going to freak out when they see the fat content in those, but it is good fat your body needs to be healthy!

 

A few comments about the steps:

step 1. Low fat can be healthy if the carbs that are taking fat’s place are whole grain or from fruits and vegetables. but a high fat diet is just as healthy as long as it is within one’s calorie limits and does not contain processed fats (trans fats or vegetable fats high in omega 6 that go rancid and also offset the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio-look it up)also saturated fat and cholesterol is not as bad as people believe.

step 2. YES! fruits and especially vegetables cannot be stressed enough. if you don’t like them, suck it up. you will get used to them and learn to love them eventually, and your body and health will definitely love them.

step 3. Agree with the trans fat in dairy creamers to avoid, but high fat dairy products are not bad as long as you are not exceeding your caloric intake. in fact most processes that take out the fat make the result unhealthy in other ways that result from the processing.

step 4. Leans meats are very healthy yes, and if you are eating a diet high in grains and other sources of calories, they are the best choice. but red meats and animal fats are not bad if they are within your caloric daily needs. numerous studies show that Saturated fat and Cholesterol does not cause high blood cholesterol; excessive caloric intake, especially that from sugars, causes insulin resistance, which leaves your blood full of cholesterol and fats because your body is overstressed in using them and tranferring it to your muscles etc.

step 5. yes, agree.

step 6. Ten times more important is one’s pottasium intake. lookup the sodium potassium pump. the problem is not too high of sodium, but that most Americans don’t consume enough pottasium from fruit and vegetables to balance out these pumps, so blood pressure and other problems arise.