Eat Smart For Your Heart

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If you want a healthy heart, then aim to eat smart.

The first way to do that is to think about legs – not your own, but those you eat, said Dr. Kevin C. Dellsperger.

The vice president and chief medical officer for Augusta University Medical Center, has been a cardiologist for more than 30 years, and he recommends eating wisely for the long haul, rather than participating in temporary diets.

“I tell my patients that no legs – fish – is better than two legs – chicken or turkey – which is better than four legs – beef or pork. But you have to choose the cuts and prepare the meat wisely,” said Dellsperger. “Choose white meat rather than dark for poultry, and always remove the skin. With pork and beef, you should select cuts that have the word ‘round’ or ‘loin’ in the label for the best nutritional value.”

Here are additional recommendations from Dellsperger on portion sizes, frequency and even seasonings to help improve your eating habits:

  • Meats: The recommended serving size is about 4 ounces, and with chicken in particular, choose a skinless boneless chicken breast. “Not only is the breast healthier, but you’ll get a little more volume and satisfaction with the chicken,” Dellsperger said.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Overall, fruits and vegetables are good for you, so Dr. Dellsperger said to eat to your heart’s content.
  • Breads: Eat carbohydrates, like breads and potatoes, in moderation.
  • Fish: Salmon, cod and oily fish from cold waters (like Alaska) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and these could have significant benefits in lowering the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts and spinach. “I consume fish and vegetables most often in my diet,” Dellsperger said.
  • Seasonings: Pepper and garlic are great seasonings, and generally enough to give you the flavor you need. But with salt, have a light hand, advised Dellsperger. “There’s a lot of salt in the American diet that you don’t even know you are eating. If you can be frugal on the salt, then you can help reduce your salt intake overall.”
  • Prepackage foods: Canned foods are generally high in salt, so go with fresh or frozen, Dellsperger said. Other items to avoid include pre-packaged sauces and dressings, which can be high in fat, calories and sodium.

While fiber consumption can improve colon health and general wellbeing, its effect is modest, said Dellsperger.

He also stressed the importance of getting regular exercise – about 30 minutes each day – to complement a balanced diet.

“Personal wellness means embracing a healthy lifestyle overall,” said Dellsperger, “but you can certainly make significant improvements to your cardiovascular health by sticking to heart healthy foods.”

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