Heart Health Tips for Beginners – Part 2- 5 Diet Myths Busted
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In the first part of this series, I told you that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US for both men and women, but the good news is that up to 80% of heart disease can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes, including your diet. However, there is still some confusion out there about what we should or shouldn’t be eating.
Here are 5 Diet Myths and the Truths to Bust Them:
Myth 1: A low-fat diet prevents heart disease.
Not exactly. While a diet that’s high in saturated or trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease, other types of fats are actually good for your heart. Choosing the right types of fat is important for reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unsaturated fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation, can help decrease blood levels of “bad” cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats can be found in certain plant and animal-based foods, including:
- Fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout
- Vegetable oils – canola, corn, peanut, olive, safflower, sunflower, soybean
- Fruits – Avocados and black or green olives.
- Some nuts and seeds – almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, chia seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds
Myth 2: A diet low in cholesterol prevents heart disease.
While high blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, other factors besides your diet can affect your cholesterol levels, including your weight, level of physical activity, age, and gender. So eating a low cholesterol diet is a good start, but paying attention to the other risk factors that can raise blood cholesterol will also help prevent heart disease.
Myth 3: Salt doesn’t play a factor–only fat.
Salt absolutely plays a factor. Eating a diet that’s low in salt/sodium can help to reduce blood pressure, which is also a major risk factor for heart attacks. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (or 1 tsp of salt), and ideally limit it to no more than 1,500 mg/day (or about 2/3 tsp of salt).
This is probably the hardest part of a heart-healthy diet because there is a ton of sodium in our foods today, especially in restaurants. But when you are trying to reduce the salt in your diet, you don’t have to be deprived of flavor. Try sodium-free spices and herbs to increase (or improve) the flavor of foods.
Myth 4: “Trans-fat free” foods are heart-healthy.
Not necessarily. According to the FDA’s label regulations, if a serving of food has 0.5 grams or less trans fats, the label can state that the food is “trans-fat free”. And some manufacturers are replacing trans fats with saturated fats in order to get around the limit on trans fats. Be sure you are carefully reading the food labels of any packaged or processed foods you buy.
Myth 5: Sugar has to be eliminated.
Nope! However, you do need to make good choices when it comes to your sugar intake. Even though they both contain sugar, fresh fruit is obviously going to be a healthier choice than a sugary soda. Choose to focus on foods that have additional nutrients, like whole fresh foods, instead of just empty calories or junk. If you have diabetes or are trying to lose weight, keep track of any extra calories, sugars, and carbohydrates you’re consuming (including drinks) because eating or drinking too many foods that contain sugars can cause issues with your blood sugars and may lead to weight gain.
So there you have it. Five myths about heart-healthy diets, BUSTED! Hopefully, this helps you understand it a little more so you can make better food choices. In the next part of this series, I’ll give you some of my top heart-healthy food picks and why I love them!
In case you missed any other parts in this series, you can find the entire series linked below:
1) Part 1: Heart Health Tips for Beginners
2) Part 2: Heart Healthy Diet Myths BUSTED
3) Part 3: Top 15 Heart Healthy Foods
4) Part 4: What NOT to eat!
5) Part 5: Get up and Get Moving!