Heart Healthy Eating
Better eating habits can help you reduce one of the major risk factors for heart attacks: high blood cholesterol.
This eating plan from the American Heart Association describes the latest advice of medical and nutrition experts, aimed at lowering your cholesterol by eating less fat (30% or less of total calories) while maintaining a balanced diet. In general, it is now thought that a “Mediterranean diet” — one rich in fruits, vegetables, cereals, fish, and beans and one that is low in fat — is the healthiest for the heart.
- Eat up to six ounces (cooked) daily of lean meat, fish, and skinless poultry.
- Try main dishes featuring pasta, rice, beans, and/or vegetables.
- Try to incorporate foods that appear to contain some extra nutrients that specifically protect against heart disease: oats and nuts are two of these.
- Limit oils, margarine, and mayonnaise to eight teaspoons per day (in salad dressings, baked goods, sandwich spreads, and so forth). Recent studies suggest that the optimal oil might be canola oil.
- Use cooking methods that require little or no fat — don’t fry.
- Trim off the fat you see before cooking meat and poultry. Drain off fat after browning. Chill soups and stews after cooking to remove the hardened fat from the top.
- Limit egg yolks to three or four per week (alone or in cooking and baking, including store-bought products).
- Limit organ meats such as liver.
- Choose skim or 1% fat milk and nonfat or low-fat yogurt and cheeses.
- Eat five or more servings of fruits or vegetables a day. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables ae thought to prevent the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries.
- Eat six or more servings of breads, cereals, or grains per day.
Because diet-related cardiovascular risk factors usually are accentuated by obesity — the more fat you put on, the higher your cholesterol goes — the American Heart Association also advises you to exercise and to maintain a desirable body weight. It is also wise to reduce your salt intake.
Sometimes when you switch to a low-fat diet, your blood cholesterol level still remains too high. Your doctor can prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug to help bring it down and reduce your risk for a heart attack.
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