Shop Smart for a Healthy Heart
These days everything you might see in the grocery store is labeled “healthy”, “natural”, “organic”. You should learn to read nutrition labels to be certain that claim is valid! Ingredients and nutrients vary by brand and preparation and since there are a lot of products out there – compare labels! Choose the items have the lowest amounts of these four “foes” to heart health and normal blood pressure:
- Sodium and Salt: The recommended guidelines suggest a total of 1700 milligrams a day from all food sources, including prepared foods and added table salt. You can the amount of sodium on food packaging labels, listed in milligrams and as a percentage of daily value, based on 2000 calories a day.
- Saturated fats: Foods that are high in saturated fats raise your “bad” cholesterol – the LDL, and put you at higher risk for heart or stroke. Make sure you are not eating more than 13 grams of saturated fat, or 120 calories, a day. Foods high in saturated fats include poultry with skin, fatty cuts of beef, pork or lamb, butter, cheese or cream. Even 2% milk is high in saturated fats! Look for this on your food labels to tell you how many grams of saturated fats are in each portion or package
- Trans fats: these are the artificial fats that come from food preparation to give it taste and texture. This is often found in deep fried foods. Trans fats raise you “bad” cholesterol AND lower your “good” HDL cholesterol. Look for partially hydrogenated oils or per serving amounts or grams per serving on the nutrition label. You want to choose foods that say 0 grams of trans fats!
- Added sugars: Table sugar or the sweeteners used in food preparation increases the amount of refined carbohydrates you take in each day and this can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels – contributing to diabetes and weight gain. Sugary foods include regular soda soft drinks, candy, deserts and even some cereals. Try to keep your total sugar consumed each day to 100 (women) -150 calories (men), or 6 -9 teaspoons of sugar.
Eat Smart for Your Healthy Heart
Choose fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. If fresh is not available, choose frozen or canned, but look for the product with the lowest amount of sodium and avoid heavy syrups or sauces. Instead, choose those packed in water or fruits in light syrup or their own juices. Include whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, skinless poultry, fish (especially fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids), low-fat and fat-free dairy products, healthier fats and tropical oils. Watch your portions and your total calories. Remember: if you want to lose weight you have to cut back on calories or burn more of them!