Diet tips for reducing the risk of heart disease
By Colleen M. Chiariello
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in America. Many people believe that heart disease risks are inevitable as they age. In truth, there are plenty of ways to keep your heart healthy and in great shape.
Preventable risk factors for heart disease include the following: obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, alcohol consumption and smoking. A heart healthy diet can prevent many of the major risk factors. This kind of healthy diet consists of plenty fruits and vegetables; fish two to three times weekly; lean meats instead of red meats; fat free and low fat dairy products; whole grain and high fiber foods; limited intake of added sugars; less sodium and limited saturated fats and trans fats. Portion control is also important in the prevention of heart disease.
We all know that diets full of fruits and vegetables are important, but why? In fact, fruits and vegetables are packed full of nutrients needed for health and healing. Antioxidants, which are found in many fruits and vegetables, help ward off disease by preventing cell damage. This cell damage can lead to heart disease, cancers and many other ailments. A diet high in fruit and vegetable consumption is very important to overall health, but it is not the only determinant of heart disease risk.
Another big contributor of heart disease risk is fat consumption. There are ways to reduce fat intake, especially saturated fat. Some of the ways include: limiting consumption of bacon, sausage, butter, whole milk and cheese. Take the skin off chicken, buy lean cuts of meat and trim off the visible fat. And bake or broil meats, avoid fried food and avoid products made with hydrogenated oils.
People should consume more omega 3 fats (heart healthy fats), get 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber each day and eat more plant based meals, using beans and soy foods for protein. Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, may reduce risk for developing heart disease.
Increasing fiber intake also helps fight off heart disease. Some of the ways to increase fiber intake include eating whole fruit instead of drinking juice, choosing vegetables that are high in soluble fiber (Brussels sprouts, acorn squash, Lima beans, broccoli, okra and eggplant) and using whole grain products (oats and barley). Other ways include, adding veggies to sandwiches and using whole grain bread.
Also, reducing the intake of salt in a person’s diet helps decrease risk of heart disease. Ways to reduce salt intake include avoiding table salt, avoiding processed foods and limiting the use of condiments, sauces and seasonings.
By following the heart healthy diet plan and choosing minimally processed foods, you will reduce your chances at developing heart disease. People should always focus on a wide variety of foods they eat and be creative with herbs and seasonings for additional flavor.
Colleen M Chiariello is the chief clinical dietitian at Syosset Hospital, which is part of Northwell Health.