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Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Importance of a Heart Smart Diet

There are many things that contribute to or undermine the health of your heart. Some factors you can't control, such as your age, sex, race, and family history of heart disease. However, there are plenty that you do have control over, like stopping smoking, reducing stress, losing weight if you're overweight, exercising regularly, and eating a heart-smart diet. If you care about enjoying a healthy life for a long time to come, you need to take action on some of the things that you can control:

Lose the Salt Shaker
Table salt - both as an ingredient in store-bought foods and home cooking, and from the salt shaker on your table - is the major source of sodium in our diet. Increased sodium in the diet has been associated with an increase in blood pressure and can cause your heart to work harder. To reduce the sodium in your diet add less salt at the table, choose lower-sodium foods, and eat smaller portions of high-sodium foods.

Increase the Fiber
You've heard it before and you'll hear it again... and again, and again: Eating plenty of fiber is very important to a heart-smart diet. Diets high in fiber-rich foods have been associated with lower risk for diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Plus, high-fiber foods tend to be filling, making them a useful part of a weight control plan.

Eat a Low-Fat Diet
The good news is that you need to eat fat. Fat provides energy and helps the body absorb the "fat soluble" vitamins A, D, E, and K, and carotenoids. Keep total fat within the daily recommended amounts but most importantly choose wisely. Limit saturated and trans fats that are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, and stroke. Instead choose foods with monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3s fats.

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