Hearts and fibers
How to eat to protect your ticker
By Linda A. Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
February is American Heart Month. Since 1963, Congress has required the President to proclaim this special month as a way to promote cardiovascular health awareness.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Perhaps the simplest way to avoid this condition is through dietary choices.
“For optimal heart health, we want our blood vessels to be flexible and elastic and we want our blood to flow freely,” said registered dietitian Hilary Warner of Nutrition Works! in Concord. “Eating the wrong foods causes our blood vessels to get stiff and inelastic and the platelets in our blood to clump together. Eating a large fatty meal can negatively affect heart health for six hours!”
Warner noted that a heart healthy diet:
• is as low in saturated and trans fat as possible,
• contains omega 3 fats, preferably from oily fish, although omega 3 fats from plants are also beneficial,
• is high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, and
• contains less than 2,300 mg sodium each day.
Foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables; fiber-rich foods (barley and oatmeal); oily fish (sardines, herring, salmon and tuna); and a sprinkling of healthy fats from foods like nuts and nut butters, and canola and olive oil, all help keep the heart in good working order. Tea, red wine, dark chocolate and turmeric are also good for the ol’ ticker.
“When I think of eating for your heart at this time of year, I think of making wonderful soups and stews that include lots of ingredients with soluble fiber, like barley, legumes, peas, carrots,” Warner said. “I think of desserts like poached pears, apple crisp with oatmeal and walnuts, and muffins and cookies made with grated carrots, applesauce, walnuts, oatmeal, white whole wheat flour, and canola oil. I think of starting the day with a bowl of hearty oatmeal jazzed up with ground flax seed, walnuts, frozen blueberries, and soy milk or yogurt.”
Warner added, “In general, no one food will kill you or cure you. When I meet with clients, I am usually more concerned about all the heart health foods they are not eating than I am about the junk they are eating.”