The hearty way to eat

Posted: February 21, 2013

You think you know what a heart-healthy diet looks like: Lots of vegetables. Lots of fruit. Lots of color and fiber. Less sodium. Very little saturated fat. Even less trans fat.

But you also know something else: Heart-healthy eating is much easier said than done. Here, five local experts show us a dozen ways to simplify your everyday eating, to put you and your heart on the path to a long, lovely life together.

Portion control

Counting calories is hard. Limiting portions is easier. Snack on small yogurts and prepacked, 100-calorie bags of almonds, cheese, even chocolate-chip cookies, said Dr. Gary Foster, director of Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education. "If you can decrease portion size, that's a really big victory."

Extra credit: DIY portion control with mini zipper bags.


This ancient grain is the newer, better white rice, high in fiber and loaded with B vitamins. Said Fran Burke, a clinical dietitian with Penn Medicine Preventive Cardiovascular Program, "Now you see a wide variety of quinoa in Superfresh and the Giant."


Go witout. This high-in-saturated-fat dairy goody lurks dangerously inside hoagies, omelets, salads and the like. If you're cooking and gotta have it, shred it first, and you'll use less, advised Angela Shaw, coordinator of the Healthy Weigh weight-management program at Cooper University Health Care in Cherry Hill and Voorhees, N.J.


A recent study found that eating three servings (about a half-cup each) of strawberries and blueberries every week can reduce a woman's risk of heart attack up to a third. Since berries are high in antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C, they've gotta be good for dudes, too.

Bonus: Now that blues are widely imported from South America, you can score them even in the dead of winter.

Trans-fat fakery

The devious partially hydrogenated oils that raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL) are enemies of heart health. Experts recommend eating less than 2 grams of trans fats per day.

Here's the thing, though: The FDA lets food manufacturers say a product contains "zero trans fats" as long as it has .5 grams or less per serving. So eating half a bag of supposedly trans-fat-free chips can exceed your day's allotment. Look on the back of packages for more complete nutritional information - and true amounts of trans fats.

Whole grains

Another reason to look at products' backsides? To find out which breads, cereals and crackers list whole grain - whole oats, whole wheat, whole barley, whole spelt, etc. - as the first ingredient, which is a good thing.

Beware the whole-grain fakers, said Shaw, "foods with added molasses or caramel coloring to make it look healthier."


Shaw calls salmon "the movie star of the food world" for the fish's high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower bad cholesterol and raise good. Two or more servings weekly "are associated with a 30 percent lower risk for developing heart disease."

When faced with the choice between farm-raised and wild, experts say go for the latter, but only if you can afford it. Other great, low-cal, less-expensive fish? Flounder and orange roughy, Burke said.


An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A recent study out of Florida State University showed that eating two small, 4-ounce apples a day for six months can reduce artery-blocking LDL by 23 percent.

Loins, legs and breasts

Buying beef? Get the round or loin. Craving lamb, veal or pork? Go for the loin or leg. Feeling chicken or turkey? Grab breasts.

Still, Shaw added, "Try to substitute fish for red meat at least once a week."


Vegetarians can get on the omega-3-plus-fiber bus with flaxseed, counseled Dr. Jason A. Smith of Lourdes Cardiology Services, who suggested grinding the seeds in a food processor or coffee grinder to sprinkle on low-fat yogurt.

Real food

Pills and oils aren't bad. But they're not as good as the real thing, counseled Dr. Richard Wender, chairman of Family and Community Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University. "There's something very beneficial about eating - eating - your nutrients in the form of foods, the way that nature produced them."

The last word

Adding good foods to your diet is good - but not if you're still eating the bad ones. Said Wender: "For a long time, the message was, you can eat anything in moderation. That message is wrong. There are certain foods you should not eat. They have no role in a healthy diet at all. . . . There is no healthy portion of cheese fries."

On Twitter @LaMcCutch

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