General Medical

Eating for Heart Health

This brings us to the final question: What should you do? Below is an action plan that I offer to clients who are omnivores (those who have no dietary restrictions by choice).

  1. Increase your intake of vegetables. This may seem obvious, but vegetables are the core of a healthy diet. I recommend that half of your plate at dinner contain vegetables. Mix up the vegetables, and try to eat seasonally.
  2. Eat healthy fats: Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, fats are essential to provide the body with the building blocks for proper cell and hormone function. And eating fat keeps you fuller longer, reduces blood sugar, and helps prevent you from consuming sugar!  Fats contain and help the body absorb vital fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). They have a protective effect on organs (including the heart).  Examples include avocado, nuts, nut butters, seeds, wild fish, grass-fed meat, and chicken.  
  3. Limit refined vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated oils.  These oils include soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oils, corn oils, and margarine, and contain high levels of omega-6 and thus contribute to inflammation and heart disease. Instead, choose extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oils, flax oil, and extra-virgin sesame oils.  
  4. Include fibers. I recommend having at least 1 tbsp. of either flax, chia, hemp, oat bran, or wheat germ a day.
  5. Reduce refined carbohydrates and sugar intake. We now know that there is a link between refined carbohydrates and sugar intake and inflammation and heart disease. There are books and books on this subject.
  6. Toss everything in your kitchen cabinets labeled reduced-fat anything:  salad dressings, yogurt, mayo,  crackers, cookies, etc. Not only are these associated with reports of  inflammation and heart disease but they also may cause physical symptoms and perhaps other medical problems . . . certainly these “foods” increase appetite and ongoing cravings for these substances and lead to more weight gain.
  7. Limit faux meat products.  There are many problems with soy. First, in an attempt to eat less meat, many women are turning to soy-based products. Soybeans contain the chemicals phytoestrogens and goistrogens. There are increasing number of studies that are raising questions about the possible impact on the development of thyroid disorders, fertility and hormone issues, and even some concern about the impact on some cancers with the intake of significant amounts of these soy-based products. Traditional, whole forms of soy like tofu, miso, natto, etc., can be very nutritious, but most of us are eating the commercially prepared products like soy milk, soy-based formulas, faux meats, and products like protein bars that contain soy protein isolate (SPI).  To create SPI, soybeans are chemically engineered to “isolate” these proteins. This process strips out all of the other nutrients the original bean contained and can leave behind substances like hexane and aluminum.  Also, over 90 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified. If you want to add soy to your diet, choose whole, fermented, non-GMO organic foods like miso, tamari, and natto.  Based on what we understand now, it seems sensible to limit even these soy products to a few times a week. If you’re a vegetarian, include real sources of proteins like beans, hemp, nuts, and seeds to your diet.
  8. Drink up! Staying hydrated throughout the day assists your body with digestion and nutrient absorption and is the one way for your body to eliminate toxins.
  9.  What’s old may still be new: Experts still agree that  the Mediterranean Diet is the optimal way to eat for heart health.  We may not have to worry about “cholesterol” but we should consider the types of cholesterol that are found in the foods we eat.

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  • Kevin March 5, 2015 at 5:49 am

    eating healthy and regular exercise will all contribute to keeping your heart healthy.

  • Roz Warren February 20, 2015 at 8:19 am

    I’ve been avoiding low fat salad dressing for years. Thanks for backing me up.

  • ellen sue spicer-jacobson February 16, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Excellent article! I just posted the link on my website and encourage readers to read the article. The list at the end needs to posted in many places!

  • Abigail congdon February 16, 2015 at 8:04 am

    This is thought provoking and seems sensible but, truly, full fat dairy? Is this really so? What a turn around.. I look forward to hearing more. Thanks AC