I know, I know – “keep your heart healthy” seems to be a constant headline. We all understand this by now. That said, how exactly to do it the rightway seems to always have conflicting information circulating.
For years, scientists told us that low-fat diets held the key to a healthy eating regimen. Now we know that goodfats, such as those in avocados and raw almonds, are nutrition powerhouses. So why have we been avoiding fat like the plague for so long?
Let’s take a quick look back a few decades.
Fat took a major hit in the 1950s when one pioneering study linked the consumption of saturated fat to heart disease, which is still the leading cause of death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That study didn’t use a statistically significant sample, however, and it found a link between saturated fats and heart disease only in certain preselected countries. Nevertheless, FAT = BAD became the law of the land. Public officials even denied research grants and key posts on expert panels to scientists trying to explore other hypotheses. With today’s rigorous scientific standards, no one would take just one flawed study as gospel now.
Also blame the sugar lobby. In the 1960s, the Sugar Research Foundation paid Harvard University scientists big bucks to write a review of studies about sugar, heart disease, and fat—studies that, of course, the Sugar Research Foundation hand- picked. One of those paid scientists later became the head of nutrition at the USDA, and he helped draft the dietary guidelines that demonized fat and made sugar look innocuous. Gah!
But not all fats are created equal.
Our bodies need fat in order to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, build cell membranes, clot blood, and move our muscles. It’s also a major energy source.
Here’s a cheat sheet for eating fats – what to keep and what to watch out for in your diet:
Found in veggies, nuts, seeds, and fish, mono- and polyunsaturated (aka good fats) help raise good cholesterol and fight heart disease. A diet rich in friendly fats, including olive oil and fatty fish (such as wild salmon) in moderation, avocados, and flaxseeds, forms the basis for the expert- loved Mediterranean diet.
Saturated fats—which increase your levels of bad cholesterol and your risk of heart disease—are OK in your diet but only as acquaintances. You’ll find them in foods such as red meat, dairy, coconut oil, and baked goods. Keep your consumption of sat fats to less than 10 percent (less than 6 percent is even better) of your total calories per day. Also, for a healthy heart try to limit your intake of animal protein anyhow – which is loaded with saturated fats.
Trans fats are human-made monsters They’re found in processed foods linked to spikes in bad cholesterol and an increased risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that for every 2 percent of calories from trans fats you consume daily, your risk of heart disease rises by a whopping 23 percent.
When it comes to trans fats, anything higher than zero grams on a nutrition label is unacceptable. Drop it and walk away.
Next up, increasing you veggie load!
Raw veggies, especially those with green or purple hues, have hugely powerful anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti–chronic disease properties. Research shows that crunching on copious amounts of cruciferous and leafy veggies fuels us with optimism, slims us down, boosts our longevity, and most importantly lessens our risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
If, as mine sure used to, your plate typically features a big hunk of animal protein with a small serving of veggies and carbs, flip those proportions.
WARNING: BEST ADVICE EVER COMING UP NEXT.
Veggies should fill half a perfect plate Yes, at least half.Pack the rest of it with protein, ideally plant-based (beans and legumes), good carbs (such as yams or brown rice), and a dab of healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados or a small amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). This dietary swap breathes new life into you and will energize you in ways you never imagined, while keeping your ticker in top shape.
A few final of my best heart-healthy tips:
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have the ability to protect against heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive function, and nourish the skin. Keep in mind, you want to aim for low-mercury fish with the least amount of toxins, such as wild Alaskan salmon, anchovies and sardines. The smaller the fish, the safer (lower on the food chain equals fewer toxins).
- Slash the sugar! We know that sugar doesn’tdo a body good. Many studies show that letting your sweet tooth call the shots can up your risk of developing diabetes and dying of heart disease. Also, beware of hidden sugars. The sugar industry camouflages its goodies really well. They have dozens of different names for their sweet stuff. Cane syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, maltodextrin, maltose, sucrose, or treacle on an ingredients list means sugar. Bench those bad boys!
- Pump that heart!! Your heart is literally a muscle, and you gotta work it! According to a massive research review by the Sports and Exercise Council of the American College of Cardiology in 2016, the more you get your heart pumping, the more your risk for cardiovascular disease declines.
Even tiny tweaks can deliver a big heart-healthy boost, so switch to a standing desk, do walking lunges on your next conference call, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even three 10-minute workouts throughout the day have proven heart-health benefits.
You got this! Eat and exercise for heart bennies and you will achieve your healthiest healthy. Here’s to your health!