for a Healthier Heart | PDF
By Judy Matusky, RD
Diets have been in the news quite a bit lately. The key to good
health is, after all, a well-balanced and sensible meal plan. A proper
diet not only nourishes the body, but also provides benefits for
cardiac, muscle, and bone health. We are privileged to have Judy Matusky
outline a good dietary plan. The following article discusses different
food groups and offers a recipe. Eating well can actually be enjoyable! —
Beverly Vaughn, MD,
Medical Coordinator, Menopause and You Program
Proper nutrition is a critical component of women’s cardiac health. The
risk of heart disease in women is as great as that in men. Lowering
total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, while increasing
HDL cholesterol, is the first step to improving heart health. A
healthful eating plan, combined with regular physical activity, is an
important contribution to a healthier heart. Current research suggests
that a “Mediterranean” style of eating can result in big changes in
these cholesterol numbers. The Mediterranean meal plan is modeled after
the dietary habits of Mediterranean countries, such as Greece and
southern Italy. Diets rich in monounsaturated fats, fish, nuts, legumes,
low-fat dairy products, fruit, and vegetables can lower the incidence of
Eat the Rainbow
Shop regularly for a wide variety of colorful fresh fruits and
vegetables. Be sure to include dark leafy greens, such as spinach and
swiss chard, and orange vegetables, including carrots and sweet
potatoes. The greater the variety of colors, the greater the variety of
heart-protective plant compounds called phytochemicals. Your goal is to
is to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily. For visual
reference, the size of a baseball is equal to 1 cup.
Mediterranean Food Guide
Fish for Omega-3s
Spend time at the fish counter and experiment with the different fish
and seafood available in most supermarkets. Aim to consume a 4-6 ounce
portion of fish at least 2-3 times per week. The omega-3 fatty acids
found in fish are important for heart health. Fishes that are higher in
omega-3 fatty acids are salmon (wild or farm raised), anchovies,
sardines, bluefin tuna, sea bass, rainbow trout, mussels, oysters,
flounder, and halibut. But you don’t have to limit yourself to these
varieties, as all fish and seafood (including canned tuna) contain
omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish is very low in saturated fat and is fine
to include in your diet. If you don’t like fish, try to eat a handful of
walnuts and a few tablespoons of ground flax seeds several times a week.
Both are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans are an excellent source of heart-protective nutrients, including
folic acid, magnesium, and calcium, as well as plant proteins and fiber.
The fiber in beans is a soluble fiber which helps lower cholesterol
levels and improve blood sugar. Try to eat 3 cups of beans per
week. Be adventurous and try adzuki, black, great northern, and pinto
beans, or the more familiar chickpeas, lima, and kidney beans.
Face the Fats
Your goal is to eliminate as much saturated and trans fatty acids in
your diet as possible. Use monounsaturated olive oil and canola oil for
cooking and baking. Read food labels; avoid products with partially
hydrogenated oils. These fats contain cholesterol-raising trans fatty
acids. Try to limit saturated fat to less than 7 percent of your
total calories per day.
Nibble on Nuts
Studies have reported that adding nuts to a heart-healthy diet may
reduce the risk of heart disease by 30 to 50 percent. Although nuts are
high in fat, the fat is unsaturated. Calories can add up, so limit your
serving size to a handful several times per week.
Although soybeans are not typically included in a traditional
Mediterranean diet, soybeans are an excellent substitute for animal
protein. They are high in protein, low in saturated fat, and cholesterol
free. Soybeans can be found in a variety of different products. The next
time you visit your supermarket, look for soy nuts, soy nut butter, soy
cheese, soy milk, soy veggie burgers, and fresh green soybeans called
Hearty Whole Grains
The refining of whole grains removes a significant amount of vital
nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals. Therefore, carbohydrate sources
should be whole grain whenever possible. Choose brown rice, wheat
berries, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, and barley. Select
100-percent whole grain bread and be sure your breakfast cereal has at
least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Eat 4-7 ounces of grains per day and
make half of those servings whole grain. Remember that a serving size is
smaller than you might think. A 1-ounce serving is equal to a ½ cup of
cooked rice, pasta or oatmeal, 1/3 of a large bagel, and about 1 cup of
Other Helpful Points
If weight loss is your goal, this eating plan is an excellent
tool for dropping unwanted pounds. Just be sure to keep an eye
on portion sizes.
When food shopping, spend most of your time around the perimeter
of the store. That’s where you will find the freshest and least
Don’t expect to change your diet overnight. Take it one step at
a time and have fun experimenting with new recipes and new
Blend the banana, strawberries and yogurt in blender until smooth. Makes
This article is part of the Menopause and You library,
a Web-based program sponsored by Women’s Health Source.
It is intended as an information resource providing guidelines for
women. As always, check with your own healthcare practitioner with your
specific concerns and questions.
To speak with our nurse counselor, call 1-888-876-8764 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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