Feeding your heart well is a powerful way to reduce or even eliminate some risk factors. Adopting a heart-healthy nutrition strategy can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugars, and reduce body weight. While most dietary plans just tell you what you CAN'T eat (usually your favorite foods!), we believe the most powerful nutrition strategy helps you focus on what you CAN eat. In fact, heart disease research has shown that adding heart-saving foods is just as important as cutting back on others.
SIX NUTRITION STRATEGIES TO REDUCE YOUR RISK
1. BOOST YOUR INTAKE OF VEGETABLES, FRUITS, WHOLE GRAINS & LEGUMES.
These beautiful and delicious wonders of nature may be some of the most powerful strategies in fighting heart disease. Depending on your daily calorie level include…
- 5-6 vegetable servings, including 2-3 colors, 2-3 textures (go for a variety of leafy, juicy, crunchy)
- 2-5 whole fruit servings, including 2-3 colors, 2-3 textures (chewy, juicy, crunchy)
- 5-10 whole-grain servings, such as whole-grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur wheat, and barley
- At least 1 serving of vegetable protein, such as black beans, tofu, and split peas
2. CHOOSE FAT CALORIES WISELY
- Limit total fat calories to 15 to 25% of a day's total.
- SUBSTITUTE: Choose unsaturated fat for added fats.
- MONOSATURATED FAT: Heart-friendliest fat. Substituted for saturated and hydrogenated-fats, and limited in quantity, it may lower LDL cholesterol. Protects against LDL oxidation. Found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, natural peanut butter, olives. OK TO ADD? Yes, best type of fat to use when added fat is needed. Measure carefully and limit. MAX % OF CALORIES? 10-15%
- POLYSATURATED FAT: Second-heart friendliest fat. Substituted for saturated and hydrogenated-fats, and limited in quantity, it may lower LDL cholesterol. Found in vegetables, vegetable oils and fish. OK TO ADD? Better to use monos. The body needs polys, but you'll get just the right amount if you eat fish and vegetables regularly. MAX % OF CALORIES? 5-7%
- SATURATED FAT: The heart's greatest food enemy. Most significant dietary culprit in raising blood cholesterol. Found in animal protein (meat, poultry, dairy: butter, sour cream, creamy salad dressing). OK TO ADD? NO. Best way to limit is to reduce meat and poultry meals and regular dairy products. Cut back on meat portions. Limit high-fat dairy foods to 2-3 servings weekly (none is okay). MAX % OF CALORIES? 5%
3. EAT A VARIETY - AND JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT - OF PROTEIN FOODS
Substitute non-meat meals for meat ones.
Eating fewer meat meals:
- Greatly reduces saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat
- Boosts heart-disease-fighting phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins and minerals
- Catching fish meals
- Reels in omega-3 fatty acids (an important unsaturated fat important in reducing heart disease risk)
- Reduces saturated and total fat
- At least 2 vegetable protein meals each week (more is better!) such as split pea soup, black bean burgers, tofu stir fry, garbanzo bean salad
- One to two skinless poultry meals weekly, 2-3 ounces per serving (okay to substitute vegetable protein or fish for chicken)
- No more than 1 red meat meal weekly (beef, pork, veal), 2-3 ounces per serving (less is better)
- At least 2 fish meals, 3-5 ounces per serving weekly (more is better!).
4. LIMIT DIETARY CHOLESTEROL
Dietary cholesterol is found only in foods of animal origin because cholesterol is made in the liver.
Limit dietary cholesterol to 200 mg daily. Less is better.
Limit egg yolks to 2 to 3 weekly. Less is better.
Limit meat portions to 6 oz. or less per day.
5. FUEL FOR ENERGY WITH COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES AND LIMIT SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES
- Eat half your calories as complex carbohydrates: whole grains (high fiber cereal, barley, rye bread), vegetables, fruits, legumes (lentils, black beans, etc.)
- Limit simple carbs (regular soda pop, sweets, and low fiber, high sugar, and processed "fat-free" foods) to 5% of calories
- Eating the right amount and type of carbohydrates provides immediate energy and restores back-up energy supplies, called glycogen, in muscles and the liver. Eating too many calories, even fat-free carbs (because they may be high in sugar) creates an energy excess, and you must warehouse the extra. The body has two warehouses: triglycerides and fat cells. Too much in either increases heart disease risk. Remember, anything your body does not use immediately, it stores.
6. DISTRIBUTE MEALS AND SNACKS IN A HEART-FRIENDLY STYLE.
- Divide calories into 5 to 6 smaller meals
- Front-load calories for maximum energy: eat the bulk of a day's calories during the daylight hours
- Allows the body to use calories without storing them as excess body fat.
- Decreases insulin production, which decreases heart disease risk.
- May help control body weight
- May improve energy and enhance exercise sessions