Ask the Dietician: Always diet for the heart

| February 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

KHAN_CPT JoettaCapt. Joetta Khan, MPH, RD, Tripler Army Medical Center

HONOLULU — Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and while most of the country will celebrate matters of the heart, it’s time to give a little love to another February observance: Heart Health Month.

The American Heart Association reports that heart disease accounted for approximately one in every three deaths in the U.S. in 2010, and continues to be the leading cause of death today.

Although there are certain genetic factors outside of your control that play a role, you can control some of the risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, by preventing excess weight gain and obesity through lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.

Taking Action

Here are six simple steps you can do every day to jump-start your heart health.

•Increase your fruits and vegetables. Try adding more vegetables and fruits into your daily snacks. Choose to have at least one serving of vegetables with each meal.

Two great snack ideas include munching on baby carrots or dipping veggies in hummus. Also, add fruit to your breakfast cereal to start the day off right.

•Make half your grains whole. Start checking those labels and looking for those grains that contain fiber. A great way to get whole grains in is to start your day off with your favorite whole grain cereal. Choose brown rice instead of white rice, and try those new whole grain pastas you have seen in the grocery store.

•Aim for 25 grams of fiber per day. Choose a combination of insoluble and soluble fibers. Soluble fiber has been shown to bind with cholesterol and take it out of the body, lowering cholesterol levels.

Great sources of fiber include whole grain breads, oatmeal and other cereals, nuts, vegetables and fruits. To try to incorporate these items into your daily routine, take almonds or walnuts with you to work for a snack this month.

•Decrease your fat intake. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. These fats are usually found in some meats, dairy products, baked and processed foods. They raise your LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

Choose lean meats, such as chicken, turkey and fish. Use healthier cooking methods like baking or grilling, and avoid frying. Try substituting one animal protein for a vegetable protein, such as tofu, edamame, soy milk or nuts. Start eating fatty fish like salmon, lake trout and albacore tuna canned in water at least once per week.

•Increase your water intake. Aim for eight glasses of water every day and even more on extra hot days or when you exercise. Keeping your body hydrated goes a long way to improving your overall health and protecting your vital organs.

Avoid or limit sugary beverages as these have little added benefit and can lead to weight gain, which can negatively impact your heart health.

•Get moving. Regular physical activity of just 30-minutes a day can go a long way to improving your heart health. Plan physical activity into your day, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away, join a walking group, wear a pedometer and strive for 10,000 steps per day or find other ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

Learn More
For more information on heart health or healthy recipes visit these sites:
•The American Heart Association at, or
•The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at

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Category: Community, Health

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