Heart Healthy Month
As heart disease is the number-one killer of men and women in the United States, and stroke is number three, learning to eat a heart-healthy diet is an essential part of both preventing and attaining good health and well-being.
Eating a heart-healthy diet can be achieved through many approaches. To start, consider what key factors contribute to prevention. To follow your heart-healthy diet, make small changes over time, rather than several changes at once.
Everybody can benefit from making dietary habit changes to prevent heart disease, but particularly those who are at high risk for the disease. For example, individuals with Down syndrome may have heart defects that are exacerbated with age, but by limiting salt (sodium) intake, decreasing dietary fat (saturated and trans), and participating in regular physical activity, heart disease may be prevented.
Developing a personal way of eating to match a lifestyle is a major key to reducing risk of disease. Making choices that are low in saturated and trans fats, as well as sugar can reduce risk of heart disease. Discuss with your medical doctor how these guidelines best apply to you.
Making Healthy Choices
Start your heart-healthy diet by switching to complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbohydrates, reduce sodium intake, and limit saturated and trans fats. In general, a heart-healthy diet should include a variety of foods and controlled portion sizes. Food choices should include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and the key is to reduce intake of high-saturated-fat foods, and to choose complex carbohydrates and low-fat protein sources. For example, complex carbohydrates provide many positive benefits, such as being low in fat and high in fiber. Consider whole wheat, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit when choosing complex carbohydrate foods. You may also find this NCHPAD factsheet helpful when trying to reduce sodium intake: Nutrition Spotlight: Salt and More Salt.
Lean protein options can include meat as well as meat substitutes. Lean/low-fat meat choices include tuna packed in water, herring, fresh ham, select beef labels (choose 'choice' and 'select'), lean roast beef, turkey burgers, and skinless grilled chicken. Meat substitutes include peanut butter, cheese, egg whites, beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh (www.tempeh.info). Lean meat substitutes include cheese with less than 3 grams of fat per serving, egg whites or egg substitute products, as well as lentil and bean dishes. Low-fat dairy products are a healthy means of ingesting calcium and protein. When preparing protein, roast, bake, broil, grill, steam, poach, or even use the microwave, instead of frying. Use nonstick vegetable cooking sprays and taste foods without added sauces and salt: the flavor might surprise you. Place meat on a rack so that the extra fat will drain off during the cooking process, and trim off visible fat or skin before or after cooking.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol is responsible for carrying cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body, and when there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, it can be deposited into the artery walls. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) carry cholesterol back to the liver, where the cholesterol is processed for elimination from the body. HDL makes it less likely that excess cholesterol in the blood will be deposited in the coronary arteries. The bottom line is that to improve your heart-healthy diet, choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to assist in reducing the 'lousy' LDL cholesterol levels while increasing the 'happy' HDL.
Reducing saturated fat intake begins with reading labels and learning where saturated fats are usually hidden. Saturated fat is found in animal products (i.e., bacon grease, butter, shortening, sour cream, coconut, and cream) and processed foods. Fat can be a healthy part of a diet, but it is critical to know what types of fat to avoid. The key is to substitute better fat choices (mono and polyunsaturated fats) for the saturated fats. Fat used for baking or cooking that is solid at room temperature is considered saturated fat. The healthier choice to reduce saturated fat is to use olive or canola oil, or try baking with applesauce, for items that remain liquid at room temperature. Reducing fat intake from animal products (meat, butter, and whole milk) may assist in reducing overall intake of saturated fat. Choose fat wisely, and aim for a majority of fat intake from monounsaturated fats (i.e., olive oil, avocado, almonds, sesame seeds, and peanut butter). When adding fat to meals, make heart-healthy choices, such as cooking with olive oil, and pay attention to the amount added during preparation and service.
Lifestyle balance includes making healthy food choices day by day. Consume more and more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and legumes; engage in regular physical activity; and balance calories consumed with calories expended. Begin to take care of your heart for the rest of your life starting this month.
Enjoy a heart-healthy bowl of stew to warm the body during this winter season.
Makes 8 servings (1 serving = 1 ¼ cup)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cube vegetable bouillon (low sodium or look for non-MSG)
- 2 cups potatoes cut in 2-inch strips
- 2 cups carrots, sliced
- 4 cups summer squash cut in 1-inch squares
- 1 (15-ounce) can of sweet corn, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup scallion, chopped
- 1 Tbsp hot pepper, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 cup onion
- 1 cup tomatoes, diced (if canned, no salt added)
- 2 cup broccoli florets
- Heat water and bouillon in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
- Add potatoes and carrots to the broth and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients except for the tomatoes and broccoli, and continue cooking for 25 minutes over medium heat.
- Add tomatoes and broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat source and let site for 10 minutes to allow stew to thicken.
Spicy Pinto Bean Dip
Makes 10 servings (1 serving = 2 ounces or 1/4 cup)
- 2 - 15 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 8 slices of canned jalapenos
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- Puree all ingredients in food processor on high speed until smooth.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Serve with baked tortilla chips.