Nutrition and the heart

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
Nutrition, physical activity, and heart health are usually quite closely related. For example, diet and activity can either positively or adversely affect overall physical health, which in turn may affect the heart. Being overweight can put physical strain on the heart, whereas being within acceptable weight guidelines can make it easier for the heart to do its job. Good nutrition is key to maintaining an appropriate weight. In addition, individual dietary components such as fat, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, alcohol, and caffeine have been linked to specific effects on the heart's health. Generally speaking, understanding how nutrition affects the heart can be useful in making heart-healthy food choices and in learning to prepare foods in a heart-healthy manner. Moderation and variety are key to maintaining an overall balance of recommended foods. It's important to either control or eliminate specific food substances such as fat, especially saturated fats, dietary cholesterol, sodium, alcohol and caffeine. Generally, a healthy adult's daily diet should draw approximately 60 percent of its calories from complex carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, 10 percent from lean protein sources, under 300 milligrams of cholesterol, and less than 2-point-4 grams of sodium. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, pasta, and beans. Foods that supply healthy unsaturated fats include canola, olive, and peanut oils, avocados, and many nuts and seeds and their oils. Lean protein choices include skinned poultry, fish, and extra lean beef, dried peas and beans, and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Finally, when preparing foods, use methods such as baking, broiling, boiling, steaming, poaching, roasting, sautéing, stir-frying, or microwaving. Also, trim all visible fat from meat and poultry, and drain fat from meats, soups and stew after cooking. If you're concerned about maintaining a heart healthy diet, or would like more information on this subject, contact a healthcare provider.

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