A few decades ago, doctors didn’t always know what was best for the heart. But now, and after
many investigations, diet plays a pivotal role in the health of the heart. Much has changed.
Heart disease is the primary public health killer. Scientists discovered some simple remedies like regular exercise is important and stop smoking is another. But the most important of all is eating a healthy diet. Choosing the right foods, and the right portions, can lower cholesterol and maintain weight. You can lower cholesterol and high blood pressure – two of the biggest risk factors for heart disease.
Most often we reach for the wrong foods. Let us look at the best and worst foods for preventing heart disease. Let’s begin by looking at fats. There are some fats that we should avoid and others that are in the mid-range that aren’t so bad and then others that are healthful.
Be Knowledgeable about the Bad Fats
Saturated fats – primarily found in red meats, butter, and other animal foods – are bad for the heart. The more saturated fat eaten, the higher the risks for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that we get no more than 10% of our calories of saturated fat from our diet.
This means you could only get 22 grams if you were eating 2000 calories per day. Even this modest amount of saturated fat is not ideal.Your best bet for lowering heart disease risk is to reduce it further to less than 10% of your total calories.Trans-fatty acids, another type of fat that causes problems. It raises cholesterol in the blood stream. This fat was a healthy alternative to replace the saturated fat found in butter. This fat is found in margarine and some studies show that trans-fatty acids may be just as bad as saturated fat found in butter. You may not want to eat too many of them. Note that many cookies, cakes and other snack foods contain partially hydrogenated oil that is high in trans-fatty acids.
How to Detect the Good Fat
There are fats that are very healthy such as olive oil, canola oil and most nuts. Here is your cue: look for the prefix “un” as in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These fats are still high in calories, but in small amounts they play important and beneficial roles.
Monounsaturated fat is mostly found in olive oil, canola oils and most nuts, and polyunsaturated fat is found in corn, safflower and sunflower oils. These oils have shown to lower the dangerous levels of LDL cholesterol without lowering the levels of the good cholesterol HDL. This is very important because you need HDL cholesterol to flush the bad cholesterol from your body.
Polyunsaturated fats keep blood pressure healthy and keep blood from clotting excessively. Choosing either of these fats over saturated fat or trans-fat is a better choice for you.
Nuts are very good sources of these healthful fats. The recommendation for these fats is to aim for getting 20 to 25 percent from total calories per day.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another healthful fat. Found in most fish and in flax seed, omega-3’s can help to prevent clots from forming in the bloodstream. They also help to lower triglycerides, a type of blood fat that in large amounts may raise the risk of heart disease.
Hope H. Anderson
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, culinary, healthy lifestyle coach supporting busy men and women professionals age 50 and over in making healthy lifestyle choices.
Phone number: 954-636-1246