A healthy diet can prevent heart disease or slow its
progression. Even if you already have heart disease, it is not too
late to adopt better eating habits to arrest the process of
atherosclerosis - hardening of the arteries due to plaque formation
- a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Here's a review of
foods to exclude and include.
Vegetables and fruits
They not only are low in calories and rich in fiber, but contain
plant-based nutrients that may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
The standard recommendations has been five servings a day, but
recent studies indicate that the more vegetables and fruit you eat,
the greater your risk reduction. Eat fresh whenever possible
to avoid additives such as salt and sugar.
Fat and cholesterol
Some fats lower your risk by reducing harmful cholesterol (LDL),
while others raise risk by increasing harmful cholesterol. The good
fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, found in "oily" fish
such as salmon, mackerel and tuna; flax and sunflower seeds; and
plant-based oils such as canola, olive and sunflower. We recommend
at least two to three fish meals a week. The bad fats are saturated
and trans fat, found in animal products such as meat and dairy, and
in some plant-based foods such as coconuts and coconut oil.
They are good sources of fiber, which lowers cholesterol, and
can help regulate blood pressure. Whole grains are foods that leave
the entire grain kernel intact. They include whole wheat bread,
brown rice, oats, corn and barley. Popcorn - without all the butter
and salt - is an excellent whole grain snack. Food made with
refined flour strip the grain kernel of fiber and nutrients. They
include white bread and white rice. Make sure you buy bread labeled
"whole grain" on the package.
The most popular protein options in the United States come from
meat high in saturated fat. Instead, choose low-fat options such as
lean meat, skim milk, skinless poultry and tofu. Legumes such as
peas, beans and lentils and nuts such as almonds, walnuts and
pistachios are excellent heart-healthy sources of protein.
Avoid organ meats, egg yolks, marbled meats, spare ribs and
Salt consumption contributes to high blood pressure, a major
heart disease risk factor. Much of the salt in our diet is "hidden"
in canned soups, processed foods (such as frozen dinners) and
restaurant meals. Look for reduced sodium versions of processed
food products, and ask your server to prepare your restaurant meal
without salt. Keep your salt intake to less than 2,300milligrams
(one teaspoon) a day, and below 2,000 milligrams if you have high
Most people simply eat too much. One serving of pasta is
about one-half cup; one serving of meat, chicken or fish is about
the size and thickness of a deck of cards. Bigger portions equal
Baking, broiling, grilling, roasting, steaming, and poaching,
instead of pan-frying or deep-frying, reduce fat calories. Avoid
vegetables smothered in cream sauce, and fruit canned in syrup.
Whether eating out or at home, we encourage people to know
not only the types of foods they are eating, but the sources of
those foods to avoid the unknowing consumption of fat, salt and
sugar. Fried food and fast food generally are not heart
Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov from
the United States Department of Agriculture for more information
about diet including heart-healthy tips and daily meal plans.
By: Dr. David Nicholson, DO, a cardiologist who practices at
OhioHealth Grady Memorial Hospital