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Tips for Following a Heart-Healthy Diet
Question: My husband had a heart attack. How can I help with his diet?
Answer from: Kathleen Zelman, R.D., nutrition expert
Heart-healthy diets are based on a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber. The key is to eat foods that lower your cholesterol.
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Meet Kathleen Zelman, Nutrition Expert
Answering your questions about diet and nutrition
Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD is a nutrition expert with more than 30 years of experience helping people eat better. For years, Kathleen has spread the word about good nutrition as a radio host, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and as an award-winning nutrition journalist. She has been recognized by the Academy and the American Society for Nutrition for her work in translating scientific recommendations into user-friendly advice that motivates people to lead healthier lifestyles.
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Ask the Expert: Kathleen Zelman My husband had a heart attack. How can I help his diet? One of our viewers writes in, my husband had a heart attack. How can I help his diet? Easy, a heart healthy diet is one that is good for you as well as anyone who has had heart disease. So, these are some tips that everyone can follow. Heart healthy diet; we use the Mediterranean style diet as our model. Because for years we have seen how beneficial a diet that they eat is good for your heart. It consists of fatty fish like salmon. Here is an example of my dinner last night, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association says eat fatty fish twice a week, that’s cardio protected. Also that consists of nuts, beans, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil. So that’s that basic foundation. Also include small amounts of eggs, dairy and meat. But, when it comes to that sort of lifestyle you can, along with exercise, you can really get your heart back on track. A few other things you can do, make sure that your diet and your husband’s diet is rich in soluble fiber because that can also help lower your cholesterol. Some ingredients that work to lower your cholesterol level, soluble fiber comes from oats, comes from beans, nuts, some fruits and some vegetables. So, include those in your diet. A couple of servings a day and that will help lower cholesterol and get your heart healthy and back on track. Healthy fats. Things like olive oil. What you want to limit in your diet are the saturated fats from butter, the fat marbled in meat, and fat in cheese. Those are saturated fat and we know that they can increase your cholesterol levels. So, that’s the last thing you want to do. Also, watch the trans fats but the good news is that food manufacturers are pulling trans fats out but look for those words, “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on labels because that’s that indicator that there are some trans fats. So, up the whole grains, beans and nuts and seafood. Limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fats. Keep an eye on sugary beverages and sugar sweetened refined treats because those need to be limited in your diet. But the combination with exercise really can help. There is one other product, worth looking for in the grocery store and those are products that are enriched with plant stanols. Plant stanols are naturally occurring but yet they are concentrated and added back into foods and these have been proven to also contribute to lowering blood cholesterol levels. So, you will find them in yogurts, orange juice, margarine, granola bars and a wide variety of products. So, there are all kinds of things that you can do. You can take ownership. You can get your heart back into good healthy condition by a diet that is heart healthy, cardio-protective and make sure that you work with your physician. Don’t stop taking any medications in favor of the diet but in combination the diet really can get you back on track.