Eating healthy benefits hearts

Avoiding foods rich in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium are a few recommendations from St. Joseph’s Hospital dietitian Sarah Bagialtsalief for readers to take to heart.

Those who are considering a heart-healthy diet should consume less than 10 percent of trans and saturated fats daily, Bagialtsalief said.

“Those fats are really found in high fatty foods like chicken with the skin, sausage, bacon, pork products and high fat dairy products,” Bagialtsalief said.

Marjory Moses, the director of community wellness at Davis Health System, said that heart-friendly foods are going to be low in fat, but not necessarily fat-free. She said that monounsaturated fats that are found in olives, olive oil, flaxseed, avocados and walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that protect the heart.

“Those foods, combined with whole grains like brown rice and oats, lean dairy and animal protein and lots of vegetables and fruits, should be the basis of your heart-healthy food plan,” Moses said.

While animal products like meats and dairy can be good sources of protein, it is important that consumers are careful of the amount of those products they eat, Bagialtsalief said, suggesting “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.”

“Cholesterol is another thing that a lot of people want to at least try to limit a little,” Bagialtsalief said.

Cholesterol is found naturally in animal products like eggs and meats, but Bagialtsalief said that eggs should not be completely avoided. She recommends no more than two eggs a day with the yolk. The yolk contains a high amount of cholesterol.

When making scrambled eggs, try adding a little bit of water before cooking to add more volume to the egg without having to cook as many, Bagialtsalief said.

Moses said some other foods that should be moderated or avoided are not limited to those high in saturated fats, which are found in fried foods like french fries, fast food menus, butter and many snacks. Other foods to try to avoid contain refined carbohydrates in products like white bread, white pasta and rice.

“They drive calories and weight up. Blood-sugar levels go up as well, increasing the risk of both heart disease and diabetes,” Moses said.

Many people eat a large amount of sodium and should cut back on salt and salted foods as much as possible, Bagialtsalief said. Common foods that are high in sodium are bacon, pork products, microwave meals, cheese and dairy, along with snacks like chips, pretzels and even pickles.

One way to avoid foods high in sodium is to skip areas where processed foods are sold and buy fresh foods. In today’s fast-paced world, some people don’t always have the time to prepare all their meals, which often makes foods high in sodium a convenient temptation. Bagialtsalief gave some tips for how to reduce one’s sodium intake from these types of foods while still utilizing their convenience.

One trick is probably something few people have thought of doing. Shoppers who buy canned foods, in certain instances, can pour those foods into a strainer and rinse them off with water. This washes most of the salt and sodium from the food, while still allowing the convenience of simply heating the canned meal.

Shoppers could opt to buy frozen foods instead, like vegetables. Bagialtsalief said that frozen vegetables still have the same nutritional value as fresh produce, but contain less salt than processed or prepared meals.