According to the American Heart Association, 2,300 people in the US die from cardiovascular disease… every day. Nutrition plays a vital role in preventing your risk for cardiovascular related disease, influencing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight control. Each of these factors which impact the development of atherosclerosis.
How do I promote heart health?
In adjusting your dietary patterns to promote heart health, it is recommended that you reduce intake of saturated and trans fat, while increasing heart healthy fats from mono- and poly- unsaturated sources, and lower sodium intake.
1. Lower Saturated Fats
Saturated Fats are found mainly from animal sources – high-fat cuts of beef, lamb, and pork, sausage, bacon, cream, butter, whole milk, cheeses, and fried foods. Avoiding or limiting these in your diet will greatly help your cholesterol levels as foods high in saturated fats increase total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and Triglycerides. Instead, gear your choices for lean proteins including poultry (chicken, turkey), egg whites, fish, seafood, tofu, and lean cuts of red meat. Trans fats are especially harmful as they can additional lower your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Trans fats are man-made created fats in a lab through the process of hydrogenation. They are found in most processed/packaged foods, margarine, baked goods (cakes, frosting, pies), chips, deep fried foods, some peanut butters (Skippy, JIF), and tropical oils (pal, palm kernel, coconut and their fractionated oils).
2. Increased Mono- and Poly- Unsaturated Fats
Increasing your intake of mono- and poly- unsaturated fat sources will greatly benefit your health. They have been shown to help reduce total cholesterol levels, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and Triglycerides. Monounsaturated fats are found mainly in plant form – olives and olive oil, almonds, avocado, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, etc. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in some animal sources as well as plant based. Cold water fish including salmon, tuna, trout, sardines and plant sources from flax seed and walnuts, are also high in essentially fatty acids known as Omega-3s. Not only do these powerful fats reverse cholesterol levels, in addition they have the ability to raise the HDL (good) Cholesterol levels in the body.
3. Decrease Sodium
The current recommendation for sodium intake for Americans is 2300mg per day. Some studies support aiming for 1500mg for optimal health. Processed and packaged foods provide the greatest amount of sodium to our daily diets. Consider limiting cured meats, soups (not made from home), bottled sauces and salad dressings, breads/rolls, frozen meals, and canned goods. It is encouraged to cook more meals from scratch, monitoring additional salt and utilizing fresh or dried herbs and spices, citrus (lemon, lime), array of vinegar, salsas, and chutneys – to add big, bold flavors without sacrificing taste.