By Dr. William Bennett
St. Charles Parish Hospital
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. Approximately every 39 seconds, an American has a heart attack. A recent study found a link between red meat allergens and an increased risk of heart disease. This finding underscores how maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways to fight heart disease.
Dr. William Bennett from St. Charles Parish Hospital offers the following tips for a few things to incorporate into your diet and a few things to avoid:
- Incorporate fruits and vegetables.A diet rich in vegetables and fruits is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. A heart healthy diet should consist of vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach. These foods contain carotenoids and have antioxidant properties which help rid the body of potentially harmful compounds. It is very important to build your diet around these types of foods. Consider having some pre-washed fresh veggies in your fridge and a bowl of fresh fruit to grab when you want a quick snack between meals.
- Choose Omega-3s, a.k.a. “the Good fats.”Not all fats are bad fats. Fats can be an excellent source of energy to help you get through your day and are good for burning during a workout. Good fats are the Omega-3s that you get from fatty fish like salmon or trout. Consuming good fats is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Saturated and trans fats increase cholesterol levels so try and limit foods that contain high proportions of animal fat like cream, cheese and butter. A few examples of foods with trans fats are cakes, pies and cookies, especially if they have frosting. Also avoid “flaky” biscuits, crackers and microwavable breakfast sandwiches. Go for olive oil or canola oil. Vegetable and nuts oils are also good options.
- Go for whole grain options.Whole grains can be a great source of fiber which can help regulate your blood pressure. Go for the whole grain version of pastas, rice and cereals. Try quinoa or whole-grain farro. Choose the 100 percent whole-grain or whole-wheat bread and look for high-fiber cereal with 5 grams or more fiber in a serving.
- Choose low-fat protein.Choose lean meats such as turkey, chicken and fish. Go for the skinless chicken breast over fried chicken patties. Skim milk over whole milk and turkey or soy burgers over red meat. Also, leave off bacon from your burger and consider trying an egg on it instead. Plant-based foods, beans, legumes, lentils are all good sources of protein. Some nuts are also good. A recent study by the Journal of American College of Cardiology found that people that ate nuts, specifically almonds and walnuts, had a 15 – 20 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
- Balance your carbohydrates.We need carbs for energy but you need to balance the carbs with intake and output. If you can maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and burn up those carbs, then they will not turn into fat.
- Limit your sodium intake.Limiting the amount of table salt you add to your meal is a good start, but the majority of sodium you consume is already in your foods. Canned vegetables and soups often contain half of the amount of sodium you should consume in one day. Go for the low sodium canned foods and looks for items that do not have salt added.
If you follow these steps, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight, you will be on the path to a heart healthy lifestyle and this will help you fight your risk of heart disease. It is also good to get your cholesterol checked by your doctor regularly and make a trip to your cardiologist if you have a family history of heart disease.