Heart healthy diet

A heart healthy diet is centered on the idea of keeping the good cholesterol high (HDL cholesterol) and the bad cholesterol low (LDL cholesterol); it also works to prevent heart disease. Some cholesterol is naturally made by the body, and this happens more often when you eat certain foods that contain saturated fats or trans fats. There are also foods that provide some cholesterol, mostly animal products: meats, poultry, eggs, shellfish, butter, milk, and cheese. Recommendations to eat the right amount of fats, cholesterol, and other foods are all guidelines of the heart healthy diet.

Nutrition Guidelines

  • Keep your intake of total fat between 25 and 35 percent. Of this, saturated fat intake should be less than 7 percent and trans fat less than 1 percent.
  • Limit intake of cholesterol from food to 300 milligrams. Those who have high LDL cholesterol or who are on cholesterol medication should set their limit at 200 milligrams.
  • Eat at least 25-30 grams of dietary fiber each day.
  • Limit sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams or less per day.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. This means no more than 1 for women and no more than 2 for men.

What You Should Eat
The Heart Healthy Diet isn’t just about the foods you can’t eat, it is more about the foods you can and should eat!

  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits; they can be either fresh or frozen, or canned in the case of vegetables.
  • Eat high-fiber foods.
  • Eat whole grains by making substitutions for refined grain products. Here are some examples: whole-wheat flour, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, and flax seed.
  • Choose low fat protein sources, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, egg whites, and egg substitutes.
  • Eat fat-free or 1 percent fat dairy products, including yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and milk (milk is an excellent source of protein as well).
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Making Healthy Choices
If you know your stuff, it is easy to make healthy choices. You are always capable of enjoying flavorful foods, both at home and when dining out. After a little research and education, you will pick up on these habits in no time. For example, you might not have known that partially hydrogenated oils are the same as trans fats, so try to eliminate foods with this ingredient. This one is a no-brainer: try to avoid foods with added sugar. But most important of all is learning how to read food labels and putting your nutrition knowledge into practice.

  • Controlling portion sizes is another way to keep your heart healthy and your daily calories in a realistic budget.
  • Plan ahead on the weekends by making a menu for the whole week. At least make a dinner menu, but try to include lunch ideas as well. This way, you don’t get off track or have the opportunity to make excuses.
  • Allowing yourself an occasional treat will do you good too. If you deprive yourself forever of the foods you love, you will end up bingeing and probably having a major setback. It is best to treat yourself every once in awhile.
  • Exercise! It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Including at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise is good for your heart and for your waistline. I would venture to say that it would make you feel healthier too.
  • The best part about all this is that the whole family (except those under 2 years of age) will benefit from the Heart Healthy Diet.

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Last updated on Jun 18th, 2010 and filed under Healthy Eating. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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