EATING HEART HEALTHY

Nutrition is increasing being recognized to support the prevention and treatment of coronary disease.  Eating heart healthy can help keep arteries open and strengthen the heart.  It can increase HDL cholesterol and decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol.  Diet also can improve blood supply to the brain (Pizzorno, 1996). These are powerful statements!

A number of foods increase LDL cholesterol levels.  Try to stay away from trans-fats in margarine, shortening, and many processed foods. High sugar intake can lower HDL cholesterol and increase levels of small molecule LDL cholesterol.  This is associated with greater risk of coronary risk than the larger LDL molecules (Rakel, 2012).  Measuring molecule size should be part of a cholesterol work-up.

Once LDL cholesterol oxidizes, it threatens our heart health. Certain foods that we eat also are prone to oxidation, in particular, those containing cholesterol and then are cooked at high temperatures in the presence of air.  Such foods include scrambled eggs, fried bacon, grilled beef, etc. (Pizzorno, 1996). 

Since oxidized cholesterol can be damaging to the body, consider eating foods high in anti-oxidants. You want to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. These are our fruits and vegetables.  A wide array of different colors of fruits and vegetables will supply a fuller range of anti-oxidants. 

A Mediterranean-style diet is recommended, including eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts, and fish.  Reduce meat intake.  Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to lower the risks of coronary heart disease. Omega-3 levels are especially high in salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds/oil (Pizzorno, 1996).

The consumption of five servings of vegetables per day and two servings of fruit is recommended.  Increased intake of vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables, has been associated with a substantially reduced risk of coronary heart disease.  Refined grains are not recommended as they have their fiber removed.  Fiber is needed to remove cholesterol from the body (Rakel, 2012).  Whole grains, which contain fiber, are recommended, including barley, buckwheat, quinoa, polenta, and brown rice (Rakel, 2012).  Go easy on the brown rice as it is be acid-forming.

Cold water fish, ideally caught in the wild, is recommended for heart health.  Substituting chicken or fish for red meat has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  Charring chicken or fish, however, can result in the formation of carcinogens (Rakel, 2012).

Eating a diet high in acid-forming foods can increase heart-disease risk.  Too much acid can actually damage blood vessels.  This, in turn, increases blood pressure, which also can damage blood vessels.  Some of the more common acid-forming foods are meat, cheese, pasta, bread, pastries, cola, coffee, and alcohol.  Many types of nuts and most sweeteners also are acid-forming.  Most fruits and vegetables are alkalinizing to the body.  Milk, eggs, and plain yogurt also are alkalinizing. For a complete list of acid-forming and alkalinizing-forming foods, you can read this.

While nutrition can be so supportive for heart health, adding exercise is essential in reducing heart disease risk.  Mild to moderate exercise is recommended.  This might include walking thirty minutes a day and resistance training for at least 30 minutes per week.  Exercise is especially helpful in increasing HDL levels.  The intensity of exercise appears to be less important than frequency and consistency (Rakel, 2012). 

References

Pizzorno, J. Total Wellness: Improve Your Health by Understanding the Body’s Healing Systems. Prima Publishing, Rocklin, California, 1996.

Rakel, D. Integrative Medicine (Third Edition). Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc., Philadelphia, PA., 2012.

Williams, D. Acid-Forming and Alkalinizing Foods. Retrieved from http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/acid-forming-and-alkalinizing-foods, 02/06/2014.

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