All month I have been blogging about heart health in honor of the Go Red for Women campaign bringing awareness about heart disease and stroke. So for my last post of the month I will focus on “eating”. I’m a “food first” type of person, I know that if you eat properly you can obtain the nutrients your body needs on a daily/weekly basis.
Based on a 2,000-calorie per day diet include:
Fruits & Veggies: aim for 4 1/2 cups or more per day. Fruits and vegetables lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, and they also reduce risk factors for obesity (low calorie, high nutrient food), and high blood pressure.
Fats & Oils: fat is an important component of our diet, we obtain our fat soluble vitamins and the fats help to keep our joints lubricated. But you want the “good” fats – monounsaturated (mono), polyunsaturated (poly), omega-3 fatty acids, limit saturated fat (these are solid at room temperature), and try to totally avoid trans fats. Here are a few examples of mono and poly fats:
Safflower, canola, walnut, grape seed, avocado, and olive oil.
And don’t forget nuts, and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids – best source cold water, oily fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna. Non-animal sources – flax seeds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts.
Sugar- is associated with obesity, is linked to high blood pressure, lowers HDL (our good cholesterol), and increases triglycerides. Natural sources of sugar are OK, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Added or processed sugar should be limited (no nutritional value here). Here are the American Heart Association’s guidelines for sugar:
Women – no more than 100 calories/day (approx… 6 teaspoons)
Men – no more than 150 calories/day (approx… 9 teaspoons)
To limit sugar looks for these terms on food labels (they are all added sugar):
Brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar, sugar molecules ending in “-ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), syrup, and Agave. See my article Sugar in the news… for more on sugar.
Fiber – helps to maintain a healthy body weight and is helpful for good digestive health. You goal should be 25-32 grams of fiber a day. Sadly the average American only gets 11-12 grams/day. Here are some good sources:
Legumes, fruits, vegetables, oats, “whole” grain breads, some cereals, barley, brown rice, seeds, nuts, popcorn.
Sodium – we need to reduce our sodium intake. Why? Reducing sodium could prevent 66,000 strokes per year, and keep 99,000 Americans from having a heart attack. Health care cost savings range from $10 – $24 billion per year. Too much sodium in our diet often leads to high blood pressure. Aim for < 2,000 mg a day (which is approx. 1 teaspoon). It is estimated that 75% of our sodium intake does not come from the salt shaker. Instead it comes from processed and restaurant foods. When cooking, skip the salt and use herbs and spices.
Following these tips can reduce your risk for stroke or heart attack. Take it a step at a time, but small, steady changes will add up.
Next month is National Nutrition Month. See you then.