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Putting Your Heart On A Diet

November 1, 2010

Whether you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt or you simply want to fine-tune your diet, here are seven heart-healthy diet tips.

1. Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol

Of the possible changes, limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is the most important step. Check the food labels of some cookies, crackers and chips. Many of these snacks — even those labeled “reduced fat” — may be made with oils containing trans fats. One clue that a food has some trans fat in it is the phrase “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list.

When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, are also good choices for a heart-healthy diet. But moderation is essential. All types of fat are high in calories.

2. Choose low-fat protein sources

Be careful to choose low fat options, such as skimmed or low fat milk in place of full cream milk and meat should have all visible fat trimmed off..

Fish is another good alternative to high-fat meats. Certain types of fish are heart-healthy because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats.  The highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Other sources are flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.

Legumes — beans, peas and lentils —are also good sources of protein and contain less fat and no cholesterol, making them good substitutes for meat.

3. Eat more vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals; they are low in calories and rich in dietary fibre. Vegetables and fruits also contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

4. Select whole grains

Whole grains are good sources of fibre and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. Many products on the market are wholegrain such as popcorn and flaxseed.  And some cereals are also wholegrain and are mentioned on the label of the product.

5. Reduce the salt in your food

Eating a lot of salt can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat.

6. Allow yourself an occasional treat

Allow yourself an indulgence every now and then. A candy bar or handful of potato chips won’t derail your heart-healthy diet. If over-indulgence is the exception, rather than the rule, you’ll balance things out over the long term. What’s important is that you eat healthy foods most of the time.

7. Sugar can be enjoyed in moderation

Many healthy foods, such as all bran cereal, are not really that enjoyable without a little sugar.  Sugar does help us to follow a healthy diet and, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, will not cause heart disease.

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Bavani Naidoo; bavani@wiredcommunications.co.zawww.wiredcommunications.co.za

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