Tag Archives: heart health

Go Red for Women

Today is National Wear Red Day, part of American Heart Month and the Go Red for Women Campaign. The purpose is to raise awareness of cardiac disease risk factors and prevention, especially in women. More women die from cardiovascular disease in the United States than all kinds of cancer combined. I think heart disease is thought of as a man’s disease, but it is a problem for women too.

The good news is that heart disease and it’s complications of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke are largely preventable. Diet and exercise can help lower your risks.

Hopefully by now you know you should be limiting your saturated fat and sodium intakes. But what are practical ways to apply this in your diet. Here are a few tips:

1. Sub in healthier fats. Canola oil and olive oil are healthier choices than butter, shortening, and other solid fats. Use these fats when possible.

2. Try cutting the fat in half. You can often cut down the fat in recipes without changing the end result. I often use half the recommended amount of butter in cookies. If making a roux, half the amount of butter generally works as well. If something calls for a high fat sauce or dressing, cut the amount in half or serve it on the side.

3. Stop adding salt. Beyond removing the salt shaker from the table, stop adding salt in your cooking. So many ingredients in your food will already have sodium. If you are worried about the flavor, add a high sodium ingredient that adds flavor along with sodium. Cheese and soy sauce are two easy additions that bring salt and other flavors to the party. Even these should be limited. Remember, salt is an acquired or learned taste. You can lower your tolerance.

What are you doing to help your heart? What can you commit to change? Let me know in the comments!

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The skinny on fats

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Earlier this year, a study challenged the long-held belief that eating a diet low in saturated fats was bad. Combining the results of many previous studies, it concluded that low consumption of saturated fats and high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (the current diet recommended by the American Heart Association) did not actually lower risk of heart disease. How can that be?

First, the article was not done very well and has drawn a lot of criticism. The details are very technical and beyond the purpose of this blog. We will just leave it with the opinion that their conclusions may not be the most accurate.

But the results do remind us to look more closely at individual food choices when replacing saturated fat. Research has documented that replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates is not beneficial to health, but replacing them with mono- or polyunsaturated fats is. So, we don’t necessarily need to eat a diet lower in total fat. We need to eat a diet with a different mix of fats.

How do we do that?

-Replace butter or margarine with oils when possible. Olive oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils are a better choice.

-Nuts can be a good choice of healthy fats. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts all seem to be heart healthy.

-Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats. They also are great sources of fiber, antioxidants, and plant sterols which can also be beneficial for heart health.

-While eating carbohydrates is ok, try to keep it in control. I like to think of dividing the plate into quarters and keeping carbohydrates to one quarter of the plate.

The bottom line is fat in general is not as bad as we used to think. The most important thing is keeping the proportion of types of fats in balance.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Fish Friday

In a recent post, I recommended fish as a heart-healthy substitute for beef and pork.  Fish is a great source of protein that is low in saturated fat but it is also high in omega-3 fatty acids.  Eating a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation, including the inflammation that is associated with heart disease.  Omega-3s have also been shown to make LDL, the “bad” cholesterol”, more light and fluffy.  These lighter LDL are less likely to build up as the plaque that leads to heart disease.

Because of it’s health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least 2 servings (3.5 ounces each) of fish each week.  (Fried fish doesn’t count.  Sorry, Long John Silvers.)  Some fish high in omega-3s are salmon, tuna, lake trout, and herring.

Admittedly, fish is very divisive.  People either love it or hate it.    If you are in the hate it category, here are some tips for eating fish:

-Try a different fish.  Each fish has a slightly different flavor and texture.  Just because you didn’t like one, you may really like another.

-Fresh fish will not have the odor that frozen fish often has.  Often, the odor turns people off before they taste it.

-Try a new sauce or seasoning.  Spices and acid (lemon) can brighten the flavor of fish.

If you are worried about mercury, you can reduce your exposure by eating a variety of fish and avoiding the fish with the highest levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.  Pregnant women and children should avoid high mercury fish and consume no more than 12 ounces of low mercury fish each week.  In general, however, for most middle-aged adults, the benefits of eating fish well outweigh the risks.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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