Preventing Heart Disease
A diet high in fat (particularly solid fats) and cholesterol and low in fiber increases the risk of heart disease. Solid fats include saturated animal fats (such as lard and butter), hydrogenated trans fats (such as shortening and margarine), and coconut and palm oils. These fats are all solid at room temperature.
For optimal health, eat foods that are low in animal and solid fats and high in fiber. Replace these fats with vegetable oils and unrefined, fat-rich foods such as nuts and avocados. However, eat all fats and fat-rich foods in moderation to avoid excess calories. Make sure your diet includes a wide variety of foods from the different food groups, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Also, get plenty of physical activity (30 minutes on most days).
The Food Guide Pyramid below shows a healthy balance of daily food servings from the different food groups. For optimal health, eat more foods from the base of the pyramid and less foods that are higher up.
Vegetable oils lower the risk of heart disease; solid fats increase the risk. In general, keep your daily fat intake moderate to prevent the overconsumption of calories. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Cholesterol Education Program, recommends people get less than 30 percent of their daily calories from fat. Less than 10 percent (7 percent is ideal) of daily calories should come from saturated fats. Those fats are solid at room temperature (for example, animal fats, trans fats, palm oils, solid margarine, lard, and butter).
One gram of fat equals nine calories. That means, if two cookies total 180 calories and have 10 grams of fat, 90 calories (50 percent) come from fat, usually from saturated fat. In comparison, carbohydrates and proteins supply four calories per gram. With new US Department of Agriculture-required nutrition labels on foods, it's easier to keep track of how much fat you consume in a day.
To reduce your saturated fat intake, avoid or limit high fat foods such as butter, margarine, fatty cuts of meat, whole milk products, commercially baked foods, fried foods, chips, crackers, chocolate, and gravies. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose lean cuts of meat. Remove the skin from poultry. Enjoy fish (baked or broiled, not fried), which is low in saturated fat. Some studies show fish may be protective to the heart. Eat nonfat or low fat dairy products. Use vegetable oils and spreads moderately.
Beware: Commercial fat-free cookies and desserts generally contain excess sugar and calories. A ripe pear or a cup of fresh strawberries can satisfy your sweet tooth, too!
Beware again: a totally fat-free diet can be hazardous to your health. Your body needs some dietary fat (preferably from vegetable sources) to perform vital functions. Fat keeps skin supple and smooth. It also helps store vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Vegetable oils and nuts, in moderation, are protective to the heart and lower cholesterol levels. Animal and other hard fats increase the risk of heart disease.Fiber
Research has shown that if people who eat a low fiber diet increase their fiber intake by only 10 grams per day their risk of heart disease is reduced by up to 20 percent. Ten extra grams of fiber can be consumed by eating as little as 1-1/2 cups of raisin bran cereal! A high fiber diet also helps protect against certain types of cancers and diabetes.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day from food sources, not supplements. Eating five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day is an excellent way to increase fiber and reduce the risk of heart disease. Other ways to increase your fiber intake include:
Other excellent high-fiber foods include:
Consult "Nutrition Facts" labels on packaged food to help determine some of your high-fiber favorites.The goal is to get 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber per day.Alcohol
The American Dietetic Association advises, "If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation." That means no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is the equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
Alcohol provides few nutrients and adds extra calories (seven calories per gram). If you take in more calories than you burn, your body converts and stores excess calories as fat (hence, the "beer" belly). Alcohol use can erode a person's resolve to live a healthier lifestyle and can be addictive.
High alcohol use can lead to heart disease (cardiomyopathy), stroke, high blood pressure, breast cancer, cancer of the mouth, and diseases of the pancreas and liver. Used during pregnancy, alcohol can cause birth defects and fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol abuse is also linked to social problems such as car accidents, violence, and suicide. If you choose to drink, limit your intake to no more than one or two drinks in any one day.Steps You Can Take Today:
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