Individuals with heart and artery diseases, such as coronary artery disease and high blood pressure, must carefully follow certain diet plans to prevent disease-related complications and prolong their life span. Foods that are high in fat, cholesterol and sodium must be avoided or limited. The American diet generally contains high amounts of all of these compounds, and maintaining a heart-healthy diet can be a challenge.
Limiting food that are high in natural or added sodium is important to balance blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams daily. While small amounts of sodium are found naturally in many foods, the majority of sodium comes from foods with added salt. High-sodium foods include soups and other canned foods, tomato sauce, condiments and pre-packaged meals. Reduce sodium by using herbs and spices when cooking, eating fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned and avoiding salty snacks.
Fats are an essential part of the daily diet, however it is necessary to avoid unhealthy types. The fat that contributes most to heart disease is saturated fat, found in foods such as meats and dairy products. Avoid red meat with visible fat, poultry with skin, lard, whole milk and other whole-fat dairy products and butter. Trans fat also contributes to heart disease and is found in foods such as biscuits, French fries, doughnuts and stick margarine. The American Heart Association recommends limiting total fat intake to 25 to 35 percent of calories, with less than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat.
Cholesterol is a substance found in fats, and an excess in the diet leads to plaque buildup in the arteries, which increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. While the body makes some cholesterol, the majority is obtained from the diet. Only animal products, such as butter and cheese, contain cholesterol. While there are both good and bad types of cholesterol, the one that contributes to the risk of heart disease is bad cholesterol, or LDL. The American Heart Association currently recommends limiting total cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams daily for most people, and 200 milligrams daily for those with heart disease.
Read food labels to help you determine how much sodium, fat and cholesterol is contained in the foods you eat. Before buying a food product, use the following basic guidelines to determine whether or not it is heart-healthy: To be considered low-sodium, a food must have less than 140 milligrams per serving. To be considered low-cholesterol, a food must have less than 20 milligrams per serving. A low-fat food contains less than 3 grams of fat per serving.
When cooking, avoid frying and using excessive amounts of oil. Bake, grill or roast meats; steam vegetables instead of sauteing. Choose whole, simple foods whenever possible. When eating out, ask for low-sodium options and avoid foods that have added marinades, dressings and sauces, which contain hidden fats and sodium.
- Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride); American Heart Association Nutrition Center; 2010
- Medical Nutrition Therapy in Cardiovascular Disease; Krause's Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 11th ed.; 2004
- Knowing your Fats; American Heart Association; 2010
- Reading Food Nutrition Labels; American Heart Association; 2010
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.