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Eat Smart for Your Heart, by Jordan Rubin
First the bad news: poor heart health is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Now the good news: there are many dietary factors that affect one’s heart health. This means we can use food as a weapon to help us stay healthy! Listed below are a few tips to get you started on a heart healthy diet!
Kick Trans Fats to the Curb
Trans fats hide in our many of our food products. They make the glaze on donuts melt in your mouth, give pies the flakey crust they are known for and increase the shelf life of thousands of packaged foods. That’s right, trans fats are all around us. So what are they and how do they wreck havoc on our health? The word “trans” actually refers to the chemical structure of the fat though on ingredient lists they go by another name: “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.”
Trans fats were created during the depression era, when food was rationed and companies looked for ways to make their food products less expensive. An alternative to butter was soon created. By adding hydrogen atoms to liquid vegetable oil, the oil became either solid or semi-solid. These new hydrogenated oils were not only less expensive; they also increased the shelf-life of many foods and provided a good texture and taste to many food applications.
Even at seemingly low levels of consumption, 1-3% of total energy intake, trans fats substantially increase risk of poor heart health. In fact, when results from 4 studies were combined (with a total of 140,000 patients), a 2% increase in energy intake from manmade trans fats was associated with a 23% spike in heart health issues .
Luckily, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required trans fats to be listed on the food label, right under saturated fats. However, not all companies have started complying with the new label regulation, and so, for now, you’ll have to become an ingredient sleuth. So, until all food labels are up to speed and indicate the amount of trans fats contained within the product, check the list of ingredients. If you find the word “hydrogenated” anywhere, then this product contains trans fats. The worst offenders are French fries (though some fast food restaurants now make trans fat-free fries), pound cake, donuts, cookies, candy bars and anything made with shortening or margarine. Even some supposedly “healthy” nutrition bars contain trans fats!
Include Omega 3 Rich Foods and/or Supplements in Your Diet
Good fat, bad fat. Now that you are giving trans/hydrogenated foods the boot, try adding some good fat to your diet, in the form of omega 3s. By now you’ve certainly heard about omega 3 fats. They have been associated with numerous heart health benefits.
Fatty fish is the best source of omega 3 fat (salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut, lake trout, and albacore tuna). Eat at least two servings of fish per week. If your taste buds aren’t fish-friendly, pick up a fish oil based supplement. Though there are plant sources of omega 3s, the specific fatty acid in plant sources (ALA), such as flaxseed oil, must be converted to the two main beneficial fatty acids that are already found naturally in fish (DHA and EPA). Unfortunately, this process is both inefficient and inhibited by several other dietary factors. If you choose to take omega 3 in the form of a dietary supplement you should not exceed 2 grams per day. As always, discuss dietary supplements with your physician, especially if you are already taking blood thinners, such as aspirin, vitamin E or the medication warfarin (Coumadin).
If you are worried about the levels of mercury in fish, take comfort in the fact that the FDA says the benefits of eating fatty fish outweigh any potential risks though women who are pregnant or may become pregnant or are nursing should avoid the following: shark, swordfish, golden bass, and king mackerel; locally caught fish per local advisories; and limit intake of albacore tuna (6 ounces/wk) to minimize methylmercury exposure.
Eat a Diet Rich in Soluble Fiber
There are two types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble and both are very important for our health. However, it is the soluble fiber (soluble because it can mix with water to form a gel) that has been shown to support a healthy heart. In fact, the FDA allows food companies to make a health claim on foods containing a minimum amount soluble fiber from psyllium (1.78g/serving) and oats (oat beta-glucan; 0.75g/serving) indicating that “soluble fiber from foods with psyllium husk/whole oats, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Foods that are often high in soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, some fruits and foods or beverages supplemented with psyllium or beta-glucan.
Drink up! Tea that is. Calorie-free and loaded with antioxidant polyphenols that help scavenge free radicals, its no wonder that tea is the 2nd most consumed beverage in the world (2nd only to water). There are many scientific studies and clinical trials that demonstrate the benefits of tea to overall heart health.
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|Statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, but are dietary supplements intended solely for nutritional use. Oct 22 2017|