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Does diet matter?
A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight heart disease. An important thing to remember is that a consistent effort to improve your overall diet with better choices is what matters the most. Recent studies have shown that 90% of us fail to consistently eat a heart-healthy diet. The result is increased risk factors for not only heart disease, but stroke, obesity and diabetes. Too much food not balanced with physical activity can result in weight gain. Food choices high in saturated and trans fatty acids, cholesterol and added sugar can raise your LDL-cholesterol (sometimes referred to as our lousy cholesterol because it carries fat to cells),triglyceride levels ( fat in the blood stream) and promote heart disease.

How will a change in my food choices affect my health?
Every small change you make to avoid excess calories from too large a portion size, or reduce the amount and frequency of foods that are high in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugar helps to reduce your risk. The overall effect of a weight management and improved food choices is lower blood cholesterol levels, better blood pressure and the opportunity to feel good and stay healthy - for life!

What is a heart healthy diet?
The building blocks for good health are found by eating of nutrient-rich foods that have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients important to health. This means foods high in whole grain fiber, lean meat, poultry and fish, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Examples of nutrient-rich foods include:

  • Vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber - and they're low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and blood pressure
  • Whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight.
  • Eating fish at least twice a week may also help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease. These foods contain omega-3 fatty acids. Good sources include salmon, trout and herring. Omega-3 fatty acids are in other foods such as nuts and seeds.

What are steps I can take to improve my diet?
Below is a list of many small steps you can take to improve your diet. Some you may already be doing. Consider picking one or two things you are not yet doing as a goal to help you improve your diet. Your dietitian will review the food label with you. This is a very helpful tool to use when making selections at the grocery store.

  • Choose sources of lean cuts of red meats, skinless poultry, fish, and game meats. Cuts of meat with the words round or loin in the name are usually lean.
  • Choose fish as a source of protein at least twice a week.
  • Limit animal foods which are high in dietary cholesterol.
  • Limit intake of saturated fats. Substitute with monounsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil, or polyunsaturated fats such as corn or safflower oil for saturated fats such as butter or shortening.
  • Avoid trans fats entirely. This means eliminating fried foods, hard margarine, commercial baked goods, and most packaged and processed snack foods. Choose foods that have little to no partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
  • Select fat-free, 1 percent and low-fat dairy products
  • Consume more fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat no more than 1,500 to 2000 milligrams of sodium per day. Avoid salty processed meats such as bacon, sausage and deli meats.
  • Alcohol affects your health. Please, ask your doctor about drinking alcohol.
  • Keep an eye on portion sizes. When in doubt, eat a little less!

Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals - and choose the foods with lower numbers
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
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