An Affair of the Heart
by Debra Nessel, RDN, CDE
In February we celebrate love with chocolates, flowers and decorative hearts.
It also happens to be American Heart Month, so right now may be a good
time to consider the affairs of your real heart. What's the best diet
to reduce heart disease risk? How much fat should you eat in a day? Which
fats are more harmful than others? And does salt consumption increase
the risk of high blood pressure?
AHA DIETARY GUIDELINES
Rather than counting actual grams of fat and cholesterol, the American
Heart Association has placed more emphasis on eating a wide variety of
healthy foods. Guidelines are divided into four broad areas and encourage
people to: eat an overall healthy diet including a variety of fruits,
vegetables, grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, legumes, poultry
and lean meats.
- Achieve a healthy body weight by matching calorie consumption with expended
energy, including modifications for weight loss when necessary to maintain
or restore good health.
- Maintain blood cholesterol levels of less than 200 mg/dL by limiting foods
high in saturated fat and cholesterol and substituting healthier unsaturated
fat from vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts.
- Keep blood pressure within desired limits by limiting salt and alcohol
and maintaining a healthy body weight; choose a diet with emphasis on
vegetables, fruits and low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
WHAT TO DO:
Eat at least one serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal. Choose
fruits or vegetables for snacks. Consume five or more servings of fruits
and vegetables each day.
- Aim for two servings of high-fiber grains with each meal. Select breads
that include the word "whole" in their first ingredient and
choose nutrient-fortified breakfast cereals, whole grain rice or pasta.
- Prevent weight gain by combining lower-calorie foods with regular physical
activity. If you are overweight, lose 5% to 10% of your body weight to
significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Control your cholesterol by reducing the amount of saturated fat, particularly
trans fats, found in stick margarine, nondairy creamers and foods fried
in trans fatty oils. Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, including
whole milk dairy products and high-fat processed meats such as bacon,
sausage and bologna. Limit tropical oils such as coconut, cocoa butter
and palm kernel oils found primarily in processed snack foods.
- Reducing salt consumption to 2,000–2,300 mg daily often helps reduce
blood pressure. Keep in mind that 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2,400 mg
of sodium. Foods naturally low in salt include fruits, vegetables and
whole grains. Compare amounts of sodium in different foods by reading
- Limit alcohol consumption to two drinks per day for men and no more than
one drink daily for women. Moderation is key.
For more information contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists
at the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center: 2841 Lomita Blvd., 3rd Floor,
Suite 335 • 310-891-6707