Saturday, February 17, 2007
February is American Heart Month and a time when many of us think about improving our diets to prevent heart disease. Seton Northwest dietitian Wendy Morgan, RD, LD, says heart healthy eating can be easier than many people think if you break it down into four basic areas: Fats, Fiber, Fruits & Vegetables and Fitness.
"We need to make it easier for people to make positive changes in their diets," says Wendy. "Many times, we go to our doctor who tells us we should just eat better. But often we have no specific guidelines so we are left to figure it out on our own. Theres so much confusing information from the media and popular magazines. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming."
"Its difficult to sort out which are good carbs, which are bad carbs or what percentage of fat and protein a heart-healthy diet should include to help prevent high cholesterol. Nobody eats percentages, they eat food, "she laughs.

Wendy offers the following four Fs for heart healthy living:

Eliminate or reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet. Foods high in saturated fats increase levels of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. Saturated are fats found mainly in foods that come from animals and some plant sources, including:
  • Meats
  • High fat dairy products (milk, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream)
  • Certain plant-based oils (cocoa butter, tropical oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oil)
Trans fats are a man-made fat similar to saturated fat and also raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol. Trans fats may also raise triglycerides and lower the healthy HDL cholesterol. Trans fats are hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils and can be found in:

  • Hard stick margarines
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Snack foods (chips, crackers, cookies, bakery items like doughnuts, pastries)
  • Commercial microwave and movie popcorn (air popped is good for you)
  • Fast foods (French fries, chicken nuggets, etc.)
Choose one of two types of unsaturated fats and oils that may help lower LDL and raise healthy HDL cholesterol.

  • Monounsaturated fats are found primarily in plants and plant oils (Olive, canola and peanut oils; olives, nuts, nut butters, avocados)
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found primarily in plant foods and some fish (Safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, flaxseed, sesame, soybean oils; salmon, tuna)
  • Omega 3 fatty acid, one type of polyunsaturated fat, helps lower triglicerides and reduce inflammation. Omega 3 can be found in plant oils and fish (Canola oil, flaxseed, flaxseed meal, wheat germ, walnuts, brazil nuts, pine nuts, salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, halibut)
Practical Tips:
  • Use soft tub margarines instead of stick margarine or butter.
  • Use mashed avocado mixed with plain fat free yogurt instead of mayo on a sandwich or burger.
  • Use oil based liquid salad dressings especially olive, canola, soybean oil instead of creamy dressings.
  • Use raw unsalted nuts instead of croutons in a salad.
  • Use pesto on fish, or toss with pasta instead of creamy sauces.
  • Use fat free yogurt instead of sour cream on a baked potato or in tuna salad instead of mayo.
  • Try plant based protein instead of meat on sandwiches (Soy and soy products such as tofu, textured soy protein, meat substitutes, peanut or nut butter, soy yogurt, soy cheese)
  • Mix flax meal or wheat germ into pancakes, or sprinkle on cereal.
  • Snack on raw, unsalted nuts instead or crackers, chips or non-commercial microwave popcorn (try Wendy's favorite recipe).
Studies link high-fiber diets to reduced blood cholesterol. Fiber is found in foods from the carbohydrate family such as grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables.

  • Eat more whole grains like bread, rice, pastas, cereal.
  • Look for 100% whole wheat or whole grain on the ingredient list of food label.
  • Choose cereals with five grams of fiber per serving.
  • Eat more unprocessed or complex carbohydrates (Oats, barley, beans, legumes).
  • Include soluble fiber which is especially heart healthy (Oatmeal, oat bran, barley, beans, legumes, nuts, pectin - found in some fruits like apples)
Practical Tips:

  • Start morning with bowl plain oatmeal topped with chopped almonds, dried prunes, figs, cherries and a sprinkle of flax meal or wheat germ.
  • Increase the amount of beans in recipes like chili, stews or tacos in place of meat.
  • Add beans to a salad.
  • Use barley instead of rice.
  • Snack on homemade trail mix made from whole grain cold cereal, nuts and dried fruit.
  • Snack on bean dip or hummus instead of creamy, high fat dips.

Fruits & Vegetables

Most diet plans recommend somewhere between five and nine servings each day of these plant-based foods. Eating enough fruits and vegetables daily satisfies hunger and are:

  • Good sources of fiber.
  • Rich in B Vitamins to help maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels.
  • Full of antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Beta-carotene to help protect cells from damage.
  • Good sources of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium to help lower blood pressure.
Practical Tips:

  • Eat whole fruits to increase fiber intake.
  • Limit juices and choose 100% juices when you do drink them.
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat a rainbow - choose produce of all colors to include a range of phytonutrients.
  • Snack on fruit instead of refined sweets like cookies.
  • Snack on a salad
  • Replace your candy dish with a fruit basket.


This F isn't about nutrition, but still vitally important to maintaining heart health. Daily activity helps:
  • Lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Raise HDL cholesterol.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Strengthen the heart muscle.
  • Improve blood flow.
  • Contribute to weight loss and weight maintenance.

Practical Tips:

  • Try a pedometer or step counter to encourage more walking.
  • Limit computer and TV time.
  • Use TV commercial breaks as exercise opportunities.
  • Get up and move every hour if you have a desk job.
  • Take a walk with co-workers at breaks.
  • Form a walking team with co-workers or family members and participate in fun runs.
  • Join a gym.
  • Make a home fitness kit: hand weights, rubber bands, exercise videos.
  • Check out fitness options available for I Pods, or through the internet.
  • Try a session with a personal trainer to work out a home routine.
"Diet can plan a big role in heart health and changes you make can affect your future," adds Wendy. "Remember these are general guidelines. If you have specific questions concerning cholesterol or heart disease, consult your doctor and possibly get referral to dietitian." Although a heart-healthy diet can significantly reduce cholesterol in most people, some have a genetic inclination toward high cholesterol and may need medication.

Wendy Morgan, RD, LD

Wendy is a clinical dietitian at Seton Northwest Hospital and accepts outpatient nutrition counseling referrals from physicians. Contact her at (512) 324-6000, x62611 for an appointment.

Article Source: Good Health

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posted by Robert at 1:33 AM |


At February 18, 2007 at 9:06 PM, Blogger alfredoe

There are 2 kinds of polyunsaturated fats: Omega 6 and omega 3. The ideal balance is 1 to 1.
Unfortunately, modern western diets have too much omega 6, coming mainly from vegetable oils, grains and cereals, making the ratio omega 6/ omega 3 close to 20/1. This creates all kinds of degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, etc.

We should try to take more omega 3 and less omega 6, even if this last one is also and essential fatty acid.

For more info see :

Alfredo E.


At February 19, 2007 at 3:14 PM, Blogger Jeannelle

Recently an article in our newspaper stated another important activity for heart health: napping! Studies have found there is much less heart disease in cultures where an afternoon
"siesta" is part of the daily routine.


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