8 Tips for Heart Healthy Diet

The typical diet contributes not only to atherosclerosis but also to many other health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, breast and colon cancer, tooth decay, diabetes, gallstones, constipation problems and alcohol-related diseases.

Fatness adds extra miles of blood vessels and puts a strain on the heart. The way to take the burden off heart and hips is to cut down on all fatty foods and eat more fruit and vegetables and whole-grain products.

1. Fat makes you fat faster

Any given weight of fat contains more than twice the calories of the same amount of carbohydrate or protein, so the first principle of sound nutrition – and an obvious answer to the question of what to eat – is to consume far less fat.

Any calorie counting chart will tell you what foods are high in fats and oils – pork and lamb, avocados, coconuts, sardines and nuts, for example. And it will tell you which are low in fat – lean beef, skinless chicken, salad greens, most white fish, all fruits.

It is quite possible to cut down on fats by studying and memorizing such a chart. It is also time-consuming. A far easier way to cut down is to think in terms of the fats that are added to foods as they are prepared, rather than fats inherent in unprepared foodstuffs. Raw cabbage, for instance, contains only traces of oil, but coleslaw is almost 10 percent oil.

2. Ignore the table salt

Salt is both the oldest and most popular of all condiments, and is employed in virtually every form of food processing, from canning to ice-cream making.

We have no need to add extra salt at table, yet we go on salting what is put before us. We salt salt-cured meats and salt-saturated vegetables and most of us consume five or six times as much salt as our bodies actually need.

In such quantities salt actually masks, rather than enhances, the flavor of what we eat. This served a very special purpose centuries ago, when much meat was rank, but it defeats the purpose of consuming foods at their peak.

The taste of fried foods is particularly enhanced by salt, and if you can make them less appetizing by not salting them – and so eat fewer chips or deep-fried fish pieces – you will be doing yourself a favor.

See: Low Sodium Diet Guidelines

3. Think first of vegetables when you think of food

It has been said that the real merit of a vegetarian diet lies not in the absence of meat but in the presence of quantities of vegetables. They provide natural vitamins in abundant supply, the fiber so often missing from the diet – particularly the dieter’s diet – and few calories for their bulk. Some people scorn them as “rabbit food.”

Raw or cooked, vegetables need not taste like fodder. The serious dieter can concoct any number of dips and sauces for vegetables out of a low-calorie mayonnaise mixed with chili sauce and a dash of Worcestershire, or yogurt and lemon juice and dill – and although these concoctions will add a few extra calories to each snack or meal, they will also improve the flavor.

Five carrot sticks, undressed and unadorned, are indeed rabbit food; but a tossed salad containing lettuce, cucumber, mushrooms, onions, asparagus spears, carrot curls, radish roses, green pepper slices, tomato wedges, and broccoli, topped with sliced cheese and hard-boiled eggs and tossed with three tablespoons of cream-style dressing is a meal. And it contains fewer calories than a single slice of pecan pie – proof that it is almost impossible to devise a meal that is both high in raw vegetable content and high in calories.

According to Heart.org: All fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that may help prevent heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. Some of these nutrients are fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamin A and C. The best way to get all the various nutrients is to eat fruits and vegetables of many different colors.

See: Fruit and Vegetable Diet and 500 Calorie Diet Plan

4. Rediscover potatoes

The potato is unquestionably the most maligned staple in the Western diet, the first item abandoned by the weight-watcher.

In actuality an entire baked potato contains only 60 calories and seasoned with nothing more than a bit of salt and coarse-ground black pepper it is one of the tastiest, most nourishing, and most filling of true low-calorie snacks.

It is the potato’s unhappy fate to be joined, in culinary tradition, with such high-calorie extras as butter, heavy cream, sour cream and grated cheese.

Much the same effect can be obtained by substituting yogurt, or creamed cottage cheese, with perhaps a sprinkling of chopped chives or parsley for added flavor.

According to Health.com: There’s no reason to shun potatoes because they’re white and look like a “bad” starch. As long as they’re not deep fried, potatoes can be good for your heart. They’re rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. And they’re high in fiber, which can lower the risk for heart disease.

5. Know the high price of processing

Calories are frequently added with each additional step in the processing of food, which explains why there are 25 calories in a cup of fresh green beans but 45 in a cup of canned beans and 60 in the same amount of frozen beans.

The increase is even more dramatic in processed fruits, which often have three times as many calories when canned or frozen as when fresh. The same is true of breaded fish, vegetables in cream sauces, processed meats and presweetened fruit drinks.

The weight-conscious shopper should head for the fresh produce section of the supermarket. The correct substitute for a particular fruit or vegetable, when it is not available fresh, is another high-fiber, low-calorie food, not the same fruit canned or frozen.

6. Appreciate the value of air

There is more apparent bulk and less actual calorie-content in anything puffed. Puffed rice or puffed wheat cereal contain only 55 calories in an entire cup. A strong argument for eating cereal at breakfast is that it is an especially good source of fiber and bulk that happens to be low in calories.

7. Beware of silly savings of calories

Much of what you think you know about the nutritional value and calorie content of given foodstuffs is probably based on popular misinformation.

There are good reasons for substituting poultry and fish for red meat in one’s diet sometimes, for instance, but calorie saving is not one of them. A can of oil-packed tuna contains as many calories as a lean hamburger, and 225g of roast chicken contains more calories than either.

The same is true of many supposedly “dietetic” foods. True, 98 percent fat-free milk does contain fewer calories than whole milk, but the difference is only 17 calories per glass.

It helps to remember that the term “dietetic” was first used to describe sugar-free products developed for diabetics. Quite often “dietetic” foods are virtually identical in calorie-value to their normal counterparts.

8. Go easy on sugar

Excess refined sugars may contribute to heart disease, as it can be concentrated into small amounts of food and drinks which require little, if any, chewing. This makes it easy to consume excessive energy unintentionally and become overweight.

Refined sugar does make you fat faster than many other foods, even those high in natural sugars, fats and calories. This is because refined sugar is the only nutritionally “pure” staple in our diet; it contains nothing but calories in the form of simple carbohydrates, whereas all other foods, including complex carbohydrates, contain traces of other nutrients.

Sugar, like salt, is an acquired taste. We consume more of it than we need, having acquired our sweet tooth as infants, when first introduced to solid food. Habits so deeply ingrained are all but impossible to reverse, but it is possible for an adult to wean himself or herself from overdependence on sugar. (Some sugar is essential to the diet).

Any diet high in fruits and vegetables will not only be low in calories but also in refined sugars. Most nutritional quackery and dietary foolishness centers round the sugar content of cakes and sweets, cordials and snack foods. These things were once considered no more than “extras” to a balanced meal, but have gradually replaced fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber in the Western diet.

People’s notions about the relative merits of such foods tend to be strongly influenced by what they have seen and read. They extol the “natural” qualities of brown sugar, unaware that it is 99 percent refined, one step removed from the white table sugar they hold in contempt. And they praise the virtues of honey, an “organic” sweetener indistinguishable from refined sugar in the body and just as liable as sugar to cause tooth decay.

See: Cardiac Diet

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