Boomer Wellness - Successful Aging Through Education
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Heart Health, Part 3

In my last blog post, I mentioned that a diet low in fat and sodium is crucial to keeping our hearts healthy.  Doing so will keep cholesterol and blood pressure down, serving as a protection against heart disease and stroke.  In this week's blog post, you will learn what to look for on a Nutritional Fact label, and which foods contain high amounts of fat and sodium. 
The results of a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in August of 2010, showed that people who read food labels were more likely to eat less fat and sugar than those who did not.  That said, I suggest that you shop for groceries when you have plenty of time to look at food labels, compare them, and make wise choices. 
When you look at the Nutrition Facts label, see if the product contains trans or saturated fats.  These are the foods you are better off avoiding.  Look carefully at the %Daily Value on the right side of the Nutrition Facts label.  You should be buying products that contain 5% or lower for Total Fat and Cholesterol.  What kinds of foods are best to steer away from when attempting to reduce the fat in your diet?
  • Ice Cream
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Beef
  • Deli meats
  • Peanut butter
  • Cheese
You can buy low fat versions of many of the above products.  However, often times other unwanted ingredients, like sugar, are added to these so that they have flavor.  If you are diabetic, like I am, take the time to check the amount of carbohydrates the product contains.  Depending on the recommendation of your nutritionist or physician, you probably do not want to exceed 30 or 45g of carbohydrate at a meal. 
Although our bodies do require some sodium, Americans are consuming much more than is required.  The current recommendation of the American Heart Association is 1200 mg per day.  I am always amazed when I look at packaged foods and notice that sometimes a product contains almost the total amount allowable for the whole day!  When you look at a Nutrition Facts label, 5% Daily Value is considered low, whereas 20% or more is high.  When you are shopping, here are some foods that typically contain high amounts of sodium:
  • Frozen dinners and prepared foods, such as rice mixes and macaroni and cheese
  • Condiments such as ketchup, salad dressings, bottled marinades, and soy sauce
  • Baked goods such as cookies and bread
  • Deli meats
  • Soups
  • Cheeses
  • Jarred pasta sauces
  • Some breakfast cereals, including instant hot cereals
  • Vegetable juices
  • Canned vegetables
  • Snack foods, such as pretzels and potato chips
Looking at the long lists above, you might be asking yourself what you CAN have.  The rule of thumb is to stick with FRESH fruits and vegetables as much as possible.  Choose foods high in fiber such as whole grain pasta,  brown rice, and whole grain breads.  Lean protein such as turkey, chicken, and fish, are always a wise choice. 
It is my hope that you are now more familiar with the types of foods to avoid, and the ones to choose, when you are grocery shopping.  My next blog post will offer healthy and easy cooking options.  You will also learn how to make wise choices while eating out.  While it all may feel daunting now, it DOES get easier. You will be a pro in no time when it comes to eating the right foods to keep your heart healthy. 

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