Three major risk factors for heart disease
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Excess body weight
The American Heart Association (AHA) Eating Plan for Healthy Americans recommends the following changes to your diet.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose at least five servings a day.
- Eat a variety of grain products, including whole grains. Choose at least six servings per day.
- Include fat free and low fat milk products, fish, legumes (beans), skinless poultry, and lean meats.
- Choose fats and oils with 2 grams or less saturated fat per tablespoon, such as liquid and tub margarine, canola oil, and olive oil. Choose trans fat free margarine.
- Balance the number of calories you eat with the number you use each day.
- Maintain a level of physical activity that keeps you fit and matches the number of calories you eat.
- Limit your intake of foods high in calories or low in nutrition, including foods like soft drinks and candy that have a lot of sugars. Your heart will be healthier if you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat less than six grams of salt (sodium chloride) per day (2400 milligrams of sodium). Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure or make it worse. Having less sodium in your diet may help you avoid high blood pressure.
- Have no more than one alcoholic drink per day if you are a woman and no more than two if you are a man.
Following the AHA Eating Plan for Healthy Americans will help you achieve and maintain a healthy eating pattern. The benefits can include a healthy body weight, a desirable blood cholesterol level, and normal blood pressure. These guidelines may do more than improve your heart health. They may also reduce your risk for other chronic health problems, including type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis (bone loss) and some forms of cancer.
Avoid Certain Fats in Your Diet
The AHA also recommends that people avoid foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and/or cholesterol. Examples of these foods include full-fat milk products, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and egg yolks. You should choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. A high saturated fat diet can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers in adults. A high saturated fat diet can also lead to excess weight gain.
Trans fatty acids (trans fats) are found in small amounts in various animal products such as beef, pork, lamb and the butterfat in butter and milk. In clinical studies, trans fats tend to raise total blood cholesterol levels. Some scientists believe they raise cholesterol levels more than saturated fats. Trans fats also tend to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. These changes may increase the risk of heart disease.
Regulate Your Intake of Trans Fats
The AHA recommends that consumers follow these tips to help lower trans fats in your diet:
- Use naturally occurring, unhydrogenated oil, such as canola or olive oil, when possible.
- Look for processed foods made with unhydrogenated oil, rather than hydrogenated or saturated fat.
- Shop for margarine with no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon and with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient. Look for those labeled trans fat free.
- French fries, doughnuts, cookies and crackers are examples of foods that are high in trans fats. Eat them less often or watch for labels that say "trans fat free" - more and more are showing up on supermarket shelves.
- Limit the saturated fat in your diet. If you do not eat a lot of saturated fat, you will not be consuming a lot of trans fats.
- Eat fewer commercially fried foods and commercial baked goods. Not only are these foods very high in fat, but that fat is also likely to be very hydrogenated, meaning a lot of trans fats.
- Commercial shortening and deep frying fats contain trans fats. That is just one more reason to eat fried fast food less often, or preferably not at all.
Source: American Heart Association
Seven Simple Desk Drawer Nibbles
- Instant oatmeal packets in flavors such as cinnamon, apple, banana and blueberry.
- Vegetable, bean, split pea or lentil soups in heat-and-serve cans or instant dry soup cups.
- Small packs or cans of water-packed tuna and small cans of veggies (don’t forget the can opener).
- A jar of peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter and crackers.
- Light microwave popcorn. Bonus: popcorn is a whole grain snack.
- Raisins, dried apricots and single-serve shelf stable containers of peaches or pears packed in water or juice.
- Single-serve containers of 100% fruit juice such as orange juice.
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