An Affair of the Heart | Torrance Memorial

Published on February 26, 2018

An Affair of the Heart

healthy food

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?


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.


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 nutrition labels.
  • 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