Heart-Smart Basics

Find out what you need to know about eating a heart-healthy diet. Follow these basic guidelines, and you’ll be on your way to optimum heart health.

Heart-Smart Basics

Photo: Oxmoor House

Be calorie conscious to control your weight

Weight control is important in the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Excess weight makes the heart work harder, causing increased blood pressure. It also raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A modest weight loss of at least 10 pounds has been shown to decrease a person’s risk for heart disease as well as diabetes.

To maintain a healthy weight, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended. The secret to this delicate balance is knowing how to determine adequate portion sizes. Cooking Light is working with the Partnership for a Healthier America and USDA’s MyPlate to give anyone looking for healthier options access to thousands of recipes that will help them create healthy, tasty plates. For more information about creating a healthy plate, visit www.choosemyplate.gov. Find recipes at http://pinterest.com/MyPlateRecipes/.

Know your fats

Here’s what you need to know about fitting fats into your diet.

 

The key with saturated fats is to choose wisely and use them in moderation. For example, use only small amounts of cheese to heighten a dish’s flavor, or make vegetables the main feature of the dish rather than meat. If you eat red meat as a main course, stick to the recommended serving size—3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards on your plate. For dairy products, choosing 1% or fat-free options helps limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

Slash sodium

For most people, the more sodium you consume, the higher your blood pressure will be. And as blood pressure jumps, so does the risk for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium to 1,500 milligrams per day.

 

Go for whole grains

Research shows that eating just 21/2 servings of whole grains per day is enough to lower your risk for heart disease. (One serving equals a slice of 100% whole-wheat bread or 1/3 cup cooked brown rice.) And it appears that greater whole-grain intake is associated with a decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Focus on healthy foods, and strive for variety

To fight heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends eating an assortment of nutritious foods daily. Make an effort to follow these diet guidelines to get the nutrients your body needs and add variety to your diet.

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