Plant Sterols are Part of a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

Why would someone want to make a point of eating plant sterols? These naturally-occurring substances help to block the absorption of cholesterol and can help to reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in the body.

Natural Sources of Plant Sterols

Plant sterols can be found in small amounts in these kinds of foods: fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables.

They are also added to an ever-growing number of prepared foods. If you want to add more plant sterols to your diet, look for foods like margarine, cereals, granola bars and orange juice, that have this ingredient added.

How Plant Sterols Help to Lower Cholesterol

Plant Sterols appear very similar to cholesterol on a molecular level. When they reach the body’s digestive system, they stop cholesterol from moving into the bloodstream. If the cholesterol doesn’t get a chance to get into the bloodstream, it is excreted from the body as waste material.

How Much Plant Sterol is Enough

Once you find a food or number of foods that have been enriched with sterols, you don’t need to eat them to excess to reap the health benefits that they can provide. Consuming two grams of plant sterols per day can have a positive effect on the health of people who have high cholesterol.

Not everyone should make a point of eating foods containing plant sterols. Unless you have a history of heart attack or have high cholesterol, don’t make a point of consuming them. A cholesterol-lowering diet should also include these foods:

  • Fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, mackerel)
  • Oat bran
  • Oatmeal
  • Soy protein
  • Walnuts

Fatty fish contains Omega-3, which helps to lower triglyceride levels in the bloodstream. Walnuts are a good choice for a cholesterol-lowering diet because they are also a good source of Omega-3.

Oat bran and oatmeal contains fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and may discourage overeating because these foods help a person to feel full, longer.

Soy protein should be included in your heart-healthy diet plan because it lowers the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides without affecting the good cholesterol in the body.

High Fiber Diets Lower Heart Disease Risk

Consuming a high fiber diet is something that everyone can do to help reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Other risk factors, such as family history of heart problems, are out of our control, but we all have a say in what kinds of foods we choose to eat.

Adding more fiber to your diet helps to control cholesterol and triglyceride levels within the body. It also helps overall health by giving the immune system a boost. Another important benefit to consuming enough fiber is that these foods help you to feel full longer and may make it easier to avoid snacking on high calorie, high fat foods between meals.

If you decide to add more fiber to your diet, do start slowly. Allow yourself a couple of weeks to bring your daily intake of fiber up to the recommended levels of between 21-25 grams per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men. You will also want to make sure that you are consuming more fluids throughout the day.

High Fiber Foods

When you want to add high fiber foods, the good news is that you have a variety of great-tasting choices available. Here are some examples:

  • Apples (skin on)
  • Baked beans
  • Bananas
  • Bran flakes
  • Bread (whole wheat)
  • Brown rice
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Oatmeal
  • Oranges
  • Popcorn (air popped)
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Adding more fiber to your diet is a simple matter of switching to whole wheat bread and brown rice instead of the white variety for these foods. Pack an apple or orange with your lunch every day – and be sure to eat it. Snack on carrot sticks and air-popped popcorn more often.

Before you know it, you will have achieved your goal of adding more fiber to your diet and you will be well on your way to healthier eating and better overall health.

Processed Meat Linked to Heart Disease

Do you enjoy eating cold cuts and other types of processed meats? The results of a study conducted by researchers in the United States may make you want to rethink this part of your diet. Eating foods like bacon, sausage and hot dogs regularly can increase your risk of heart disease by 42 percent.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) compiled information taken from 1,600 studies conducted around the world that included approximately 1.2 million people. The results indicated that eating a single hot dog or one or two slices of deli meats daily was enough to make the risk of heart disease jump.

The salt and preservatives used in preparing these foods may be the real reason why these foods aren’t the healthiest choices. High levels of sodium have already been linked to heart disease.

Eating non-processed meats doesn’t appear to carry the same level of risk for heart health. If you enjoy red meat, you can include lean cuts in your diet. Choose healthier cooking methods, like baking, broiling or grilling, more often. You can also make a point of trimming excess fat off before cooking.

Chicken or turkey can also be part of a heart-healthy diet. If you like hamburgers, try adding some variety to your table by picking up some ground turkey and making turkey burgers instead? You may want to add some spices to the meat before cooking to jazz up the patties, since the turkey can be a little bland on its own.

Once the turkey burgers are cooked, serve them on whole wheat buns. Feel free to garnish with some relish, onion, lettuce and tomato for a tasty sandwich that the whole family can enjoy.

You can still eat processed meats occasionally without increasing your risk of developing heart disease. According to the results of the study, eating these types of foods once a week or so won’t lead to heart problems. Keep them in mind for an occasional treat instead of including them in your daily diet if you want to be good to your heart.

Low Sodium Diets Can Lack Taste

Lowering salt intake can be good for your heart, but it doesn’t necessarily taste very good. Low or no-sodium foods are becoming a major consumer trend, but if consumers don’t find these food palatable, they aren’t going to continue buying them.

Many consumers understand that the amount of salt they are ingesting is related to their heart health. They are familiar with the relationship between a high salt intake and high blood pressure.

Most of the salt that North American residents ingest is from processed foods or eating foods purchased from restaurants. Keep in mind that salt can also be present in some beverages, too.

Recommended Daily Salt Intake

The recommended daily amount of salt intake is 2,300 mg. This is equal to approximately one teaspoon. The average person in the United States ingests approximately 3,800 mg on a daily basis, which much higher than what is considered healthy. In the case of a person who eats at fast food restaurants often, the amount of sodium they are eating can be as high as 10,000 mg per day.

Low Sodium Foods Becoming Popular

Food companies are starting to produce products being marketed as low sodium choices to consumers. While some food choices, like potato chips, are well known for having a high level of sodium, this ingredient can be hidden in other food choices. Consumers should get into the habit of reading labels before making a decision to buy a particular item.lower dietary sodium

In March of 2010, Pepsico announced that it would start testing a new, low-sodium salt on Lay’s potato chips. The company’s goal was to reduce the sodium levels for Classic chips by 25 percent. Pepsico had previously made the decision to use sunflower oil, a healthier choice, when making its potato chips. Its goal is to continue making snack foods that customers will enjoy using healthy ingredients.

4 Tips for Heart Healthy Eating During the Holidays

eat healthy foods pictureThe Holiday Season is a time for celebrating with friends and family. We extend good wishes to people we know and look forward to a New Year full of promise. Part of the celebration involves eating special foods that we don’t enjoy at other times of the year. With a bit of planning, you can follow a heart healthy diet at holiday gatherings.

1. Eat something before you head out.

Make a point of having a snack before you go to a holiday party. If you aren’t famished by the time you arrive, it will be easier to avoid overindulging in high-fat foods. A container of yogurt, some low-fat cheese or some hummus and whole wheat crackers are good choices.

2. Put lean cuts of meat on your plate.

Turkey is a good choice, since it is low in fat. To keep the fat content down, stick to white meat over dark.

3. Go light on sauces and dips.

Many foods that are popular during this time have heavy sauces. If you want to have gravy with your meal, use a small amount only and add some cranberries to your plate as a lower-fat alternative. Load up your plate with vegetables and enjoy their flavors and textures without masking them with a lot of dip.

4. Don’t let the dessert table be your downfall.

One of the things that we look forward to at holiday time is the assortment of goodies that are available. While it may be tempting to decide that you only live once and fill up your plate with a generous portion of everything that is being offered, resist the urge to go overboard with these sugar- and fat-laden treats.

Instead, make a conscious choice about which dessert you would most like to eat and have a small portion. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Be aware of the flavor and texture of the food.

The Holidays are a busy time, but you can still stay on track while enjoying special foods. If you follow the 4 tips for heart healthy eating during the Holidays here, you won’t have to make a New Year’s resolution to change your diet.

3 Weight Loss Tips You Can Use

Losing weight is something that can lower your risk of heart disease. Here are some simple tips to help you get on the right nutritional track:

1. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

Fruits and vegetables are tasty and low in calories. They provide much-needed fiber and fill you up so that you are less likely to eat between meals. Start by adding a piece of fruit at breakfast and lunch and a salad at dinner a few times a week.

2. Keep an eye on portion sizes.

Restaurant portions tend to be much larger than what the average person needs. Don’t feel obligated to finish everything on your plate when you go out to eat. Take some of your food home to enjoy later on.

3. Resist the temptation to skip meals.

Eating regularly keeps your blood sugar stable and helps to prevent overeating at meal time.

No “Bad” Foods When It Comes to Preventing Heart Disease

When it comes to eating well for your heart’s sake, be sure to eat a variety of foods. When we decide that certain foods are “bad,” it makes them more attractive to us. Rather than taking the things that you enjoy the most and putting them on a list of forbidden pleasures, why not vow to eat well and consume your favorites in moderation?

Food isn’t inherently “good” or “bad.” There are some choices that are better for your health than others, such as choosing whole grains, lean meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables more often. Very few people can stay disciplined enough that they make healthy choices all the time.

Instead of feeling guilty for falling off the healthy eating wagon and deciding to continue making unhealthy choices, give yourself a break. It’s OK to have a treat sometimes.

Cut Back on Fats for Heart Health

When it comes to heart-healthy diets, there are lots of ways that you can make better choices that will improve your health. One thing you can do is consume less saturated and trans fats in your diet. Taking this step will lower your cholesterol levels, as well as your risk of developing heart disease.

If you want to lower your fat intake, focus on solid fats first. You can reduce the amount of butter, margarine or shortening that you are using to cook with. Cut back instead of trying to give up with way of preparing food entirely. The idea is to make changes that you can adopt as permanent lifestyle changes, not do something for a short time only.

Be creative and substitute other foods for butter and margarine; for example use a cooking spray to avoid adding extra fat and calories to your meals.

Eat Fish to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

If you are concerned about your risk of developing heart disease, you should make a point of visiting the seafood section of your supermarket on a regular basis. Eating fatty fish twice a week gives your body a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids that your body needs to stay healthy. Fatty fish include mackerel, salmon, herring, albacore tuna, and lake trout.

Fish is a good source of protein, and doesn’t have the high levels of saturated fat that red meats do. If you want to get the benefits of eating fish without adding a lot of fat, opt for baking or grilling the fish, as opposed to dipping it in batter and frying it. You can also get health benefits from eating tofu, walnuts, and flaxseed. Use tofu in smoothies, add walnuts to salads and other foods, and sprinkle flaxseed on your morning cereal.

No Magic Foods Prevent Heart Disease

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some foods that you could eat that would prevent heart disease? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. While there is no magic pill or food that will guarantee you will never be affected by heart disease, you can make good choices about the foods you eat and lower your risk.

Here are some examples of foods that you should include in your heart-healthy diet:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Garlic
  • Legumes
  • Oily fish, such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Tea
  • Vegetable oil (choose corn, safflower, or soy)
  • Whole grain cereal products

Alcohol, when consumed in moderation, can reduce your risk of heart disease. “Moderation” means no more than two drinks a day if you are a man and one per day if you are a woman).