How to eat a heart-healthy diet
Healthy eating is an important way to maintain heart health. Over the next few minutes, we’d like to share answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about heart healthy eating. I have high cholesterol. Should I stay away from high-cholesterol foods like eggs and shellfish? Cholesterol in your food actually has very little effect on your blood cholesterol. This is because your liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body. What affects your blood cholesterol most is the amount and type of fat that you eat. The best way to lower your blood cholesterol is to choose foods that are lower in fat. Choose leaner cuts of meat, skinless poultry and lower-fat dairy products, and limit egg yolks, the yellow part of the egg, to 3 per week. Shellfish, like shrimp and squid, are a low-fat alternative to eating meat, and can be enjoyed once a week. Scallops, mussels, lobster, and crab are very low in cholesterol and can be enjoyed as often as you like. There are a lot of different diets out there. Should I really be limiting my fat intake? Fat has an awful lot of calories. Limiting your fat intake, as long as you’re not replacing the calories with unhealthy calories can be helpful for achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. The type of fat you eat can also affect your cholesterol levels. Saturated fats and trans fats can raise your LDL cholesterol or your lousy cholesterol. Foods that have saturated fats typically come from animal sources, so meats and dairy products generally have the highest amounts of saturated fats. Make sure to choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry, and trim your meat of any visible fat. Enjoy low-fat dairy products, like skim or 1% milk and 0% yogurt Trans fat is primarily found in commercially processed foods. This type of fat is worse for your heart than saturated fat, so it’s important to choose foods that are trans fat free. Before buying any commercially processed foods, check the packaging to make sure it doesn’t have any trans fat in it. Look for phrases like “trans-fat free”, “0 trans fat”, or “no trans fat” Check the ingredient list – make sure that “shortening” or “partially hydrogenated oil” are not listed as ingredients. If they are, pick a product that doesn’t have these two ingredients listed. Avoid using hard margarine, which is high in trans fat. Instead, use a non-hydrogenated margarine, which is trans-fat free and has very little saturated fat. What’s the best oil to cook with? Cooking oils are a good source of healthy fats called unsaturated fats. The best oils to use in your cooking are olive oil and canola oil. Even though these are healthy oils, it’s still important to limit the amount of oil that you use when you’re cooking. Use heart healthy cooking methods that don’t need a lot of oil Such as steaming, poaching, baking, roasting, and stir-frying. Avoid deep-frying or pan-frying. Even if you are using a heart-healthy oil, your food will absorb too much extra oil during the cooking process. When you are adding oil to your cooking, use an oil spray or measure out the oil that you’ll be using. I’ve heard a lot about omega-3 being good for my heart, but I’m not really sure what it is. Can you tell me more about it? Omega-3 fats are healthy fats that we need to get from food because our bodies can’t make them. We need them to help raise our healthy cholesterol and make our blood vessels more elastic. The best sources are from fatty fish including salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines. You can choose fresh, frozen, or canned fish. When you choose canned fish, make sure it’s packed in water instead of oil. You should try to eat these types of fish at least twice a week. If you don’t eat fish, you can also get omega-3 from walnuts, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and wheat germ. You can enjoy these nuts and seeds every day, but make sure that they’re unsalted and haven’t been pre-roasted in oil. I know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. Should I be focusing on anything else? Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, and they’re also a great source of fibre. Fibre can help to decrease your cholesterol and blood pressure. It also helps you to feel full for longer, which helps with achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Of course, fibre is also useful for keeping your bowels regular. There are two kinds of fibre: Soluble fibre which is especially helpful for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure; and insoluble fibre which helps to keep your bowels regular. It’s important to ensure you get both kinds of fibre every day. Foods that are rich in soluble fibre include psyllium, oat products like oatmeal and oat bran, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, berries, citrus fruit, broccoli, cauliflower and squash. Insoluble fibre is also known as “roughage”, and can be found in whole grain breads, cereals and pastas, leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce; and more colourful fruit and vegetables like melons and peppers. If you’re not used to eating a lot of fibre, start slowly, and make sure to drink plenty of water to help prevent stomach upset. I don’t have diabetes, do I still need to watch my sugar intake? Sugar can be found naturally in food, or it can be added to food. Sugar is found naturally in foods like fruit and milk products. These foods are healthy and should be enjoyed throughout the day. Added sugars include table sugar, honey, syrups and foods that contain added sugars, such as sugar sweetened beverages, desserts, and sweetened cereals. Eating large quantities of added sugars can increase weight and increase the risk of developing heart disease, even in people who are not overweight So, it’s important to limit the amount of added sugars that you eat. Having an occasional treat is fine, just remember that if you have a treat every day, it’s no longer a treat, it’s a habit. I think I need to cut down on my salt intake. How do I do that? Salt contains sodium, and eating too much sodium can increase your blood pressure. Sodium is found naturally in fresh foods, but more than 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed and packaged foods. To cut down your sodium intake, limit the amount of salt you eat by not adding any to your food at the table. When you’re cooking, only add a pinch of salt, or instead of salt, try adding flavour with dried or fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, or rosemary, or try using a blend of herbs and spices. Choose fresh foods whenever possible, and limit foods that have been processed, pickled, smoked, or salted If you are using canned products, make sure to rinse them well under water first The foods I eat are healthy, but I’m just not sure how much to eat. Can you tell me more about heart healthy portion sizes? Portion control is important for achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. A simple way to do it is to follow the plate method. Fill up half of your plate with vegetables. A quarter of your plate should include lean protein like fish, legumes, skinless poultry or lean meat. The last quarter of your plate should be high-fibre starchy foods like whole grain breads, brown or wild rice, multi-grain pasta, potatoes with their skin still on, or corn. Then you can round off your meal with a glass of milk and some fruit for dessert. Not every meal will fit into the plate method. What do you do on pizza night? Yes, there can still be pizza night. Just apply the same ideas. Choose a pizza made with a whole-grain thin crust and topped with lots of veggies and some grilled chicken. Let that fill up half your plate. Then, have a big salad with it and enjoy some fruit for a sweet finish. What are some heart healthy tips for eating out? When eating out, choose dishes that have been prepared using heart healthy cooking methods. These include dishes that are steamed, poached, broiled, grilled, stir-fried or baked. Choose dishes with lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, fish, or legumes. Choose dishes with higher fibre starch options, such as whole wheat or multigrain pasta, brown or wild rice, and sandwiches made with whole grain breads. Ask to have your salad dressings and sauces on the side. Choose non-creamy dressings and sauces. And of course, don’t forget the veggies!