Nutrition Tips for Heart Health

February 7, 2022

Since February is American Heart Month, let’s talk about ways to take care of hearts through nutrition with these tips:



Choose Heart Healthy Fats

When it comes to fat, there is the good, the bad and the ugly! The good fats to choose are going to be the unsaturated fats which are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. The monounsaturated fats can help increase our good cholesterol levels. Examples of these would be olive oil, canola oil, almonds, avocados, peanuts and peanut butter. Omega 3 fatty acids are considered a polyunsaturated fat and these Omega 3’s can decrease inflammation inside the body. Examples would be any cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna or mackerel, walnuts and flaxseed.



Avoid “Ugly” Fats

These “ugly” fats are called trans fats and in the last 15 years, they have made their way on the nutrition facts panel for the world to see. The goal is to limit these to 2 grams or less a day, but it would be better to avoid these completely as they can cause inflammation inside the body. Trans fats can be in some bakery goods, fast foods, processed foods, stick margarine, shortening, microwave popcorn or peanut butters. Even if the nutrition facts states on the label that there are zero trans fats, it is always best to look on the ingredient list to see if there is anything listed as “partially hydrogenated” as this indicates that there is a small amount of trans fats in the product.



Limit Saturated Fats

When we think of saturated fats, we mostly think of foods that once came from an animal with a few exceptions. The main sources of saturated fats are meats, fish, dairy products and eggs. It would be best to limit the saturated fats to 5-7% of the total calories. Ways to do this would be to choose lean meats such as chicken or turkey without the skin, round or loin cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products such as light tub margarine, 1% or skim milk, light cheese or low-fat yogurts.



Choose Heart Healthy Carbohydrates

The fiber rich carbohydrates are the best ones to consume for heart health. The fiber in the food attaches onto the LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol, and helps take it out of our bodies. These would be any whole wheat version of our grains such as breads, pastas, pizza crusts, tortillas or crackers. There is also a lot of fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and legumes.



Achieve a Healthy Weight

This can seem easier said than done, but a healthy weight can make for a healthy heart. Research shows that that a weight loss of 10-15# can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 5mg/dl. It is always best to set small and realistic goals looking at one decade at a time weight loss on the scale rather than looking at a more daunting number that might take much longer to achieve.  Each little change in nutrition that is made can lead to weight loss and overall heart health.

The Author

Kim Kramer R.D., L.D.N., CDCES

I have been a dietitian for over 15 years and my passion is in outpatient wellness working with kids and adults to help change their eating habits. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a dietitian, and I am enthusiastic about nutrition as it gives me joy to talk to others about healthy foods. I promote a healthy lifestyle and positive behavior changes. I have also been working in the field of diabetes for the last 7 years providing optimal diabetes management practices to those in need. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my kids, cooking, playing the piano and working out.

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