Category Archives: Cardiovascular Health

Tune Up Your Metabolism

WeightsRevamping your metabolism is more than just about exercise. Research suggests what and when you eat and how and when you exercise can play a role, too.

Here are some simple steps to take to rev up your metabolism and help you lose weight.

Don’t Forgo Your Morning Meal

You know the age-old saying: “Breakfast is the most important part of the day.” And well, it’s true. Research shows that breakfast plays an important role in jump-starting your metabolism. A healthy breakfast of fruit, yogurt and wholewheat toast or cereal is a great and healthy way to signal to your body that it’s time to start working. When you skip out on breakfast it’s often counter-productive as your body remains in rest mode and you may end up hungry and eating more throughout the day.

Add a Little Protein

Did you know eating protein can help crank up your metabolism? To step your metabolism up, try upping the amount of lean protein at breakfast and lunch and decreasing the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates and fats in your diet. Your body will work harder to break down and digest proteins, increasing your metabolic rate1. How much an increase? It is not clear. But even a slight increase adds up, day after day.

So how much protein do you need at breakfast and lunch? Studies indicate 25-30 grams boost calorie-burning, satiety and muscle growth. Here are some suggestions: 1 cup Greek yogurt = 23 g protein; 1 egg or egg white + 1 cup milk + toast + peanut butter = 25 g protein; 3 oz chicken = 28 g protein.

As an added bonus, studies show those who eat more protein at each meal typically feel fuller and are more likely to eat fewer calories daily2. Great protein sources include fish, lean red meat, chicken breast, turkey, nonfat Greek yogurt, eggs and egg whites, beans and lentils.

Spice it Up

Turning up the spice on your food has been found to speed up metabolic rates, according to recent studies. Spicy foods help to generate heat and raise body temperatures when consumed. The heat source can be attributed to capsaicin and is found in a wide variety of peppers and spices, including jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne and most other chili peppers. While how much spices increase metabolic rates is debatable, spices also can be responsible for suppressing your appetite and making you feel fuller….thereby boosting weight loss.

Drink More Water

Sipping water throughout the day is a quick and easy way to speed up your digestive tract, burn more calories and eat less. Research suggests your body’s ability to burn calories relies heavily on having enough water to work effectively. When you drink more water ( 2 liters daily), there is actually an increase in the efficiency of your cells, speeding up metabolic rates. Water also helps you feel full, cutting appetite.

True thirst disguises itself as hunger. Drink water first. Hunger may disappear. Try drinking a glass or two of water before and after each meal.

Pump Iron

The more muscle you have the higher your resting metabolic rate. This means that even when you are sitting, you are actually burning more calories than those with more body fat. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn. Toning up your body and increasing the amount of muscle mass through exercises such as weight lifting, Pilates, yoga, bands, can help give your body a big metabolic boost.

Pump the Heart and Lungs

Aerobic activity, including fast walking, biking, jogging, swimming and tennis, for 40 minutes or more boosts your calorie burn for the moment and several hours later. High intensity interval training – alternating fast and slower-paced activity every 1-2 minutes – for 40 minutes has been shown to speed up weight loss and fat loss.

Use any or all of these ideas, to help keep your weight in check.

For more ideas on healthy eating, calcium and fiber sources, and anti-osteoporosis exercises, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

1. “Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating.” The Journal of the American Medical Association. January 2012.

2. Leidy, HJ. “Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese.” The American Journal of Nutrition 97(4):677-688. 2013.

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Top Tips for Staying Committed to Fitness this Summer

Shoes

The heat is on and summer is in full swing. As your calendar fills up with happy hours alfresco and weekends spent grazing at neighborhood block parties and barbecue buffets, don’t let go of your summer health and fitness routine.

To keep yourself on track both at home and while traveling these summer months, here are my top tips for staying committed to a healthier, happier you this summer.

Keep a Food Log

Research shows that recording what you eat is one of the best ways to stay on track and achieve your diet and fitness goals. With so many helpful mobile apps and online trackers, that food log is always in reach and it’s now easier than ever. I’m a fan of the USDA’s SuperTracker, which provides customized nutrition guidance to help people make smarter choices. MyFitnessPal is another favorite.  Keep track of your daily intake no matter where you are this summer.

Make the Time

Though we are typically more active in the summertime don’t confuse activity with exercise. Carve out time in your busy summer schedule to schedule a workout. Even 20-30 minutes a day can make a huge impact – increasing your overall productivity and energy levels. Plus, making exercise a daily part of your daily routine reduces stress and keeps you relaxed.

Think Ahead

Commit to your exercise routine ahead of time and opt to get out there early when it’s cooler…or late. Try to avoid getting out in the middle of the day – between 11 am and 4 pm when the sun is pounding the pavement, too. And on these days when it’s too hot to be exercise outdoors, don’t just forgo your day’s exercise routine. Rather, hit the pool or plan to work out indoors. Staying on a schedule will also give you a chance to evaluate what is working and what is not in your fitness routine.  Summer is a fun time to try to a boot camp, water exercise class, water-walking or biking in your neighborhood or a new bike trail. Family or neighborhood volleyball or badminton games, bowling and hikes also add summer fun.

Indulge in Summer Veggies and Fruits of the Season

Throughout the year it’s easy to fall back on a few key fruits and vegetables, but summertime brings fresh choices. Give your body a nutritious kick by incorporating summer’s bounty of in-season, colorful fruits and vegetables. From red tomatoes and yellow sweet corn to dark green kale, there are so many options to choose from. Indulge in chilled watermelon, sweet cantaloupe, juicy grapes, refreshing pineapple and plump cherries this season. These also make perfectly sweet desserts. Use summer fruits and vegetables for snacks – keep them sliced up and ready to go in the refrigerator.  Smoothies are great snacks and desserts, too.

Find a Buddy

Being accountable makes all the difference. Find a partner that keeps you committed – and that also makes plotting out your diet and fitness goals more fun. Plan morning exercises together – running, walking, biking or hitting the gym – and swap healthy recipes. Buddying up is a great way to stay accountable and also celebrate your achievements when you hit your goals.

For more ideas on healthy eating, calcium and fiber sources, and anti-osteoporosis exercises, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com.

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Eat Real, America! – Food Day 2012

Food Day 2012 is just about here. The annual nationwide celebration and movement, which takes place annually on October 24, is a day dedicated to unifying food efforts across the country to improve our nation’s food policies and encourage healthy and sustainable food practices.

I personally see this as a wonderful opportunity to challenge Americans to get REAL and eat REAL FOODS! Putting a focus on foods that bolster our health, we can reap powerful nutrient-rich benefits. Overly- processed foods are usually high in fat, sugar and salt, and often high in calories and low in nutrients – increasing risk of chronic disease. Making a commitment to consuming vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, bean/peas, nuts, healthy oils, lean meat and low- or non-fat dairy foods each day, we can reduce the several hundred thousand premature deaths each year attributed to unhealthy choices and heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer.

Need help getting started on improving your healthy lifestyle choices? Download one of the delicious, healthful and easy-to- prepare recipes from some of the country’s most prominent chefs and cookbook writers in the Food Day Cookbook. You can also check out recipes of mine from my book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step up to the Plate (2009). This book’s recipe section focuses on fresh ingredients that you can find in season now at your local farmer’s market or in the produce section of your grocery store. You will also find easy, fun ways to eat more vegetables and fruits. Following is a favorite recipe of mine to jumpstart your commitment to real foods.

Ranch Pasta and Vegetable Salad

6 ounces corkscrew pasta, uncooked (or your favorite wholegrained pasta)
¼ pound fresh snow peas, trimmed (about 1 ½ cups)
1 ½ cups fresh broccoli flowerets
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup fresh cherry tomato halves
2 medium fresh yellow squash, trimmed and cut into 2” x ¼” strips
Dressing of blenderized:
¾ cup nonfat buttermilk
½ cup 1 percent low-fat cottage cheese
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
1 green onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; rinse under
cold water, and drain again. Place in a large bowl.

2. Blanch snow peas, broccoli and squash in boiling water 30 seconds; drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking process. Drain well; add to pasta.

3. Process buttermilk and next 4 ingredients in an electric blender until smooth; add green onion, jalapeno and cilantro; process until minced. Pour over pasta mixture, and toss. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Yield: 8 cups (8 servings)
Per Serving: 125 Calories, 1 g Fat, 3 g fiber, 7 g protein

You can also take action on Food Day by organizing or participating in a local event. For more information about what’s happening around you, visit http://foodday.org. You will find also a link there where you can ask your Congress leaders to support the following Food Day goals:

1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods.
2. Support sustainable farms. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger.Organize food drives.
3. Protect the environment with reasonable regulations.
4. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids.
5. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.

Hope you’ll join the thousands of parents, teachers, students, health
professionals, community organizers and local officials across America this Food Day and push for healthier, more sustainable food policies.

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit:http://
http://www.georgiakostas.com.

Almonds – The Inside Scoop

Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure of joining the Almond Board of California for an almond orchard tour. Next time I enjoy that almond crunch, I will think back on my time in the orchards where I came to appreciate the many steps taking one of my favorite nuts from the grove to the grocer!

Following is the inside scoop and key learnings from my almond orchard tour.

Growing Almonds

Almonds spend five months maturing on trees. They must be grown in the right climate – warm and dry – in order to produce well and that’s why California serves as the perfect environment to grow these nuts. In fact, California is home to 80 percent of the world’s almond production. The almonds are harvested in August, at which time they are hulled and shelled. The whole raw almonds are then prepared for shipment to food manufactures who dice, slice, sliver, roast, toast and blanch almonds for various foods and snacks.

Scientific Backing

New health benefits for almonds keep mounting. Four large prospective epidemiological studies – including the Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study, the Physician’s Health Study, the Adventist Health Study and the Iowa Women’s Study – all link nuts to lower heart disease risk. Further, the British Journal of Nutrition recently published a study highlighting how consumption of nuts at least four times a week reduces risk of heart disease by 37 percent. The focus on nuts in the Mediterranean, DASH, and Portfolio diets also back the health benefits of these nuts, leading the American Heart Association to include almonds, pistachios and walnuts in their AHA Food Certification program.

Heart Health

What in almonds is cardio-protective? It’s the monounsaturated fats that help lower LDL-cholesterol and keep good HDL cholesterol high. Anti-oxidants, polyphenols, phytonutrients, flavonoids and Vitamin E work synergistically to keep blood vessels more elastic and block LDL oxidation, which hardens arterial plaque. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, anti-oxidants and arginine content are all responsible for helping to lower blood pressure, dilate blood vessels and enhance blood flow. These nutrients combined with protein and fiber, work together to help control blood sugar. Almonds also have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant components that prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The nutrient-richness of almonds means each almond packs a lot of nutrients that work with 20 or more powerful antioxidants (including flavonoids in almond skins), which synergistically work to confer these multiple benefits. To ensure your heart health while reducing risk of diabetes, eat almonds with other foods at meals or snack time.

Weight Loss

Almonds have even been shown to aid weight loss, too! Research suggests, almonds do this in two ways: 1) promoting satiety (long-lasting satisfaction), helping to reduce calorie intake by satisfying hunger; 2) promoting body fat loss. In fact, a study featured in Obesity found those who ate nuts at least twice a week were 31 percent less likely to gain weight over a 28-month period than those who did not eat nuts. Additionally, in a recent weight loss study, smaller waist circumferences were evident among those who included almonds in place of equivalent amounts of carbohydrates in their diets.

Breaking Health News


Almond lovers rejoice! Thanks to new methodology used to measure calorie value, researchers recently confirmed almonds have 30 fewer calories per oz. (23 almonds) than previously thought. Now, for a satisfying snack, almonds are just 130 calories instead of 160 calories per oz.

It’s hard to believe all these health benefits are packed into one little shell! You can try incorporating these special nuts into your day – morning, noon and night. Spread a little almond butter on your toast and sprinkle a handful of almonds on cereal or yogurt. Top your salad with a sprinkling of almond slivers or pop a handful of raw, unsalted almonds for an afternoon snack.

Enjoy the crunch!

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

Eat the Mediterranean Way for Better Health, Preventing Heart Disease & Diabetes

The rich flavors and health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are hard to ignore. The heart-healthy diet is based on eating traditional foods (and drinks) of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Crete and other parts of Greece and Southern Italy. The diet focuses on consuming healthy fats, seafood, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables. Ingredients emphasize fresh and real foods, which help manage blood pressure, lipids and blood sugar while promoting longevity.1 In addition to cardiovascular benefits, research suggests a delayed need for sugar-lowering drug therapy in overweight patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.2

The century-old tradition of the Mediterranean Diet has proven to contribute to good health. Try incorporating these dietary patterns into your own home to promote an overall sense of well being while combating heart disease and chronic illness.

  • Seafood. Eat seafood 2-4 times a week. Try salmon, halibut, tuna steak, snapper, mackerel, bass, sardines, tilapia, canned light white tuna, shrimp and rainbow trout. The American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish twice weekly to reduce heart disease risk by 40%. The omega 3 oils in fish are heart-healthy.
  • Berries, Cherries, Red Grapes. Eat these daily. Choose fresh, frozen and dried and eat as part of meals, snacks and desserts. Add to shakes, smoothies, stews, salads. Use as toppings for yogurt, pancakes, oatmeal and cereals. The deep red pigment (identifying anthocyanins, flavonoids and polyphenols) are powerful anti-oxidants that reduce cholesterol oxidation (plaque) and inflammation in arteries, preventing the stiffening of artery walls.
  • Tomatoes. Eat daily fresh or cooked in sauces, stews, spaghetti or pizza sauce, soups, salsa and tomato juice. Include other red-pigmented foods too, such as carrots, cantaloupe, oranges, red onion, red bell pepper, red cabbage, red-veined lettuce, beets, red apple, red or purple grapes, eggplant, cherries, berries and sweet potatoes. The flavonoids in these foods fight heart disease.
  • Greens. Eat daily: spinach, asparagus, cabbage, greens, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and broccoli. These foods are packed with heart-healthy vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients, such as the B Vitamins, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, calcium and Vitamins A,C, E, K that lower blood pressure and keep arteries elastic.
  • Beans. Include ½ cup daily or 4 cups a week of beans to lower lipids. Eat all types and colors, served hot or cold. Tasty options include hummus, lentil soup, black bean soup, limas, black beans, black-eyed peas, navy beans, garbanzos, pintos, edamame and red beans. Try adding beans to dips and salads and snack on baby carrots and red bell pepper strips with hummus.
  • Wholegrains with Fiber. Strive for 3 servings daily. Enjoy oatmeal topped with raisins, almonds or walnuts; 100% wholewheat bread, cereal, crackers; kashi, barley, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, popcorn and wheat berries. Aim for 48 grams of wholegrains daily.
  • Lean Quality Protein. Include lean beef and pork cuts in your diet. Eat poultry without skin, low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), seafood and soy. These nutrient-rich foods protect your body and your heart.
  • Olive Oil, Nuts, Avocado. These healthy oils lower cholesterol. Use in salads and cooking. Try up to 6 teaspoons of oils daily or 2 tablespoons of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts or pistachios.

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com.

2011 American Society for Nutrition. “The Impact of a Mediterranean Diet and Healthy Lifestyle on Premature Mortality in Men and Women.” (Piet A van den Brandt) http://www.ajcn.org

2 2009 Annals of Internal Medicine. “Effects of a Mediterranean Style Diet on the Need for Antihyperglycemic Drug Theray in Patients with Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes.” (Esposito) http://www.annals.org

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

Heart Smart Foods for February Heart Month

Healthy heart, healthy body. 

How can you prevent artery and heart disease that a majority of Americans develop over a lifetime? Take action now. Focus on heart smart foods that keep your artery walls strong, elastic, and free of plaque (from cholesterol deposits and oxidation), inflammation and clots. Heart-Smart foods fight for your life every day, by protecting your arteries from:

Cholesterol build-up:  Eat plant foods (fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oils), foods with soluble fiber such as oats, beans and psyllium seeds; fish, poultry without skin, lean beef and pork and lamb cuts; skim milk, low-fat cheese, and spreads and special foods with stanols or sterols (i.e Smart Balance Heart Right spreads and milk). Avoid saturated, hydrogenated and tran fats in lard and fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, hot dogs, sausage; burgers, hardened margarine sticks, commercially prepared desserts, snack foods, icing, fried foods.

Cholesterol oxidation:  Eat anti-oxidant-rich fruit and vegetables of all types, particularly deep red/blue/purple foods such as red grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, grape juice, red wine, dark chocolate, tea, eggplant, raisins, tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Artery stiffness:  Eat olive oil, canola oil, seafood (omega 3’s), nuts, and fresh produce that contain anti-oxidants, phyto-nutrients and potassium.  Skip the salt shaker, packaged and canned foods, and salty foods that stiffen arteries.

Artery inflammation:  Select anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant-rich foods such as fresh produce, whole grains, beans, seafood, omega 3-rich foods. Eat regular meals with reasonable portions        (large meals or large portions inflame artery walls by elevating blood sugar, fats and salt). Avoid excessive sugar, salt, saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats; excess body fat, particularly middle fat; and sitting long hours. Get up and move. Treat and control elevated blood pressure and diabetes. The bottom line: reasonable portions, reasonably sized meals and regular exercise prevent inflammation.

Clot formation:  Eat nature’s natural blood thinners to prevent clots, such as seafood, olive and canola oils, red foods with polyphenols (red grapes, red onions, tea, wine, red apples, garlic, grape juice) and red/orange foods such as tomatoes, red bell pepper, berries, cherries, carrots, oranges, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cantaloupe- all are good for your arteries and blood flow. Omega 3s are found in oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, bass, trout; walnuts;  canola and olive oil, as well as omega 3- fortified spreads, milk, orange juice, low-fat cheese.

In essence, enjoy 2-3 fruit and 2-3 cups of fresh vegetables daily…especially colorful ones, and a variety, to reap the greatest heart-health benefits. Eat beans 4 times a week; nuts 4 times a week -one shot glass of nuts is a serving; seafood at least twice a week; 3 whole grains daily; healthy oils; non-fat or low-fat dairy and lean protein foods.

Limit alcohol, which raises blood pressure and weight, and can interfere with medications. The American Heart Association guideline: “Limit alcohol to no more than one can of beer, five ounces of wine, or one and a half ounces of 80 proof alcohol per day,” for women; two for men. Exceed these amounts, and the benefits of alcohol are countered by increased heart risk.

Remember to get up and move for at least 30 minutes daily. Schedule a little exercise each day for fun, relaxation, stress release, and recreation. You heart and arteries will sing. Plaque and inflammation and clots lessen, artery elasticity and strength increase, LDL (bad) cholesterol lowers, healthy HDL cholesterol rises, blood sugar, fats, and pressure normalize. A little goes a long way to improving your overall health, heart health and sense of well-being.

Seemingly little decisions daily as to what to eat and how much, when to exercise and how much, make a HUGE impact on your heart, and your life.

Discover more heart healthy tips by visiting my website, www.georgiakostas.com. Order my book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009), for recipes, teaching tips, menu planning and more. You can also follow me on Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or twitter @georgiakostas.

Protein Series, Part 2 of 3: Lean Protein is Good for Heart Health

Introduction:  Recent research indicates that a moderate serving of high-quality protein (3-4 oz) with each meal can make a significant difference in healthy aging, body strength, weight management, and disease prevention. This is especially significant since approximately 20 percent of older adults do not meet the USDA’s recommended dietary allowance of protein. Read my three-part series on Protein to learn how you can achieve optimal health as you get older.

Lean Protein is Good for Heart Health

Eating lean beef daily, as part of a heart-healthy diet, can help lower LDL-cholesterol ( bad cholesterol), lower triglycerides ( blood fats), and raise HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) more than excluding beef, according to new research published in the January 2012 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  In this study, 5 oz of lean beef were consumed daily, as part of an overall healthy, plant-based, nutrient-rich diet (DASH), which included a variety of foods from all food groups.

Lean Beef by the Numbers

Americans can feel confident in their decision to eat lean beef daily, in moderate amounts,  as part of a low saturated fat diet which meets the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It’s a complete package! A 3 oz. serving of lean beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 1,500-2,000-calorie intake daily and it supplies more than 10 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for 10 essential nutrients. On average, a 3 oz. serving of lean beef (about the size of a deck of cards) contains about 150 calories and is an excellent source of six nutrients (protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin and selenium) and a good source of four nutrients (phosphorous, choline, iron and riboflavin).

Lean Beef by the Cut  –

Did you know 17 of the top 25 most popular fresh meat cuts sold in retail are lean? Some of my favorite choices in cuts are  Tenderloin, Top Sirloin, Flank, T-Bone steak and 95% lean Ground Beef. It’s simple to pair these delicious cuts with nutrient-rich vegetables, grains and dairy foods for an overall healthy diet.

Other Heart-Protective Foods

How can you protect your heart? Eat the right type and amount of wholesome foods! Choose colorful fruit, vegetables, and beans; wholegrains; lean protein foods ( fish, poultry, lean beef, low-fat cheese); non-fat or low-fat dairy; and the right types and amount of fat and oils  to reduce artery inflammation and lessen the development of hardening of the arteries, which underlies most heart attacks.

Lifestyle Factors that Reduce Heart Disease

  • A healthy weight
  • Aerobic exercise, 30+ minutes, 3-5 times weekly
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy blood pressure (<120/80)
  • Not smoking
  • Treating depression
  • Managing stress
  • More vitamin D3
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Ample sleep

In summary, lean beef protein can be beneficial to your heart as long as it does not exceed saturated fat limits (3-4 oz lean beef contains 4-6 gm sat fat out of 15-22 gm sat fat limit daily). Realize the value in varying protein sources – it’s good for your taste buds, adds nutrient variety, and helps your heart. It takes your total lifestyle to keep your heart running right…combine eating right and regular physical activity for optimal health.

Need more ideas?  Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009), or email me at Georgia@GeorgiaKostas.com to schedule a nutrition consult in person, over the phone or online.  You can follow me on Twitter/GeorgiaKostas, Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or visit my website http://georgiakostas.com.

National Cholesterol Education Month is Now!

Do you have a happy heart? This is a perfect time to get your cholesterol checked; then be pro-active to achieve and maintain a low (healthy) cholesterol level (below 200) and low LDL cholesterol (below 130).  LDL is the cholesterol that sticks to arteries, hardens, and creates plaque.  It eventually builds up and narrows and stiffens arteries, blocking blood flow and causing clots.  The result?  Heart attacks and strokes.  You can lower LDL and total cholesterol the same way.  My top ten tips:

  1. Eat more fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.  Their natural anti-oxidants block LDL from oxidizing (hardening) in arteries, causing plaque.  They also prevent LDL-inflamed arteries, which spin off clots. Red foods in particular are natural clot-busters.  Eat red apples, berries, tea, red grapes, and red onions, tomatoes …particularly rich in the artery-protective polyphenols and flavanoids.
  2. Eat seafood 2-4 times a week…particularly omega-3 rich salmon, tuna, bass, sardine, swordfish, and cod.  And take a fish oil supplement with 1000 mg EPA/DHA omega-3’s from marine sources only.  Fish oils protect arteries from inflammation and clots, and keep the heart beat in rhythm.
  3. Eat lean protein – fish, poultry, lean beef and ham, nonfat dairy; 3-7 eggs a week.  Keep fish/poultry/lean meat at 6 -8 oz daily to not exceed safe amounts of hidden cholesterol and saturated fat.
  4. Keep fiber intake high as possible, particularly insoluble fiber sources – as in oatmeal, Kasha, beans, oat cereals (like Cheerios and oat squares), and psyllium.  You may also add one tsp of sugar-free Metamucil (psyllium) to a glass of water at 2-3 meals daily to lower cholesterol.  Three whole grain foods daily will also lower cholesterol.  Example: oatmeal, 100% whole grained bread, popcorn or corn.
  5. Use healthy oils – olive and canola, nuts, nut butters, avocado, olives – to lower LDL.
  6. Add special sterol-fortified foods (like Smart Balance Heart Right spread or milk). Two servings daily will lower cholesterol in 6-8 wks.  Many more are on at your grocery store. Ask a dietitian.
  7. Lose 5-10 lbs – cholesterol will drop 15-25 points.
  8. Do not smoke.
  9. Limit alcohol – 1 drink a day for women; 2 for men.
  10. Keep moving!  Aerobic activity 150 min a week and weight training (30 min twice a week) will do the trick!  You will lower cholesterol and build healthy HDL cholesterol, which transports LDL out of your arteries.  You will decrease your blood pressure, blood sugar and unwanted pounds.

Lowering cholesterol with food, exercise, weight, and lifestyle is the key.  Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009) for more ideas of menus, snacks, cereals, cheeses, beef cuts, vegetable ideas to make all this easier for you . Or call me for a phone consult at 214.587.4241.  I want to help you be healthy and have a happy heart!

Follow me on Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or Twitter @georgiakostas.

Image: “Mixed Vegetables Healthy Lifestyle” by Grant Cochrane

Go Red for Heart Month! Show your Heart some TLC

Go red! You may recognize this American Heart Association’s Heart Month slogan, reminding us that heart disease is the top health threat to women, as well as men.

Go red! This is a great way to eat to prevent heart disease. Red foods contain plant nutrients called bioflavonoids and anthocyanins – both of which are heart-protecting natural blood thinners, anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammatory agents that protect arteries, blood vessels and our hearts. It is easy to eat red/orange at almost every meal – a fresh orange or berries at breakfast, with cereal or a shake, a red apple or tomato soup with a sandwich at noon, or tomatoes in a sandwich; at supper, a salad with tomato, red onion, red bell pepper, carrots, radishes, California (red/green) lettuce – that’s six red foods right there. Sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, red grapes, all berries, red lettuces, red cabbage, eggplant are other ways Nature provides us with cardiovascular health.

Other simple, effective ways to enjoy heart health:

  • Eat heart-healthy – fruit, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, poultry, lean meat cuts, healthy oils (olive and canola oil, tub spreads, Smart Balance Heart Right spread with stanols and omega 3’s, pistachios, nuts, nonfat milk/yogurt; limit sugar and fatty foods, sodas, processed foods.
  • Exercise regularly – do good-for-the- heart aerobic activity 150 minutes a week; resistance training 2-3 times weekly ; and stretching for balance, flexibility, agility
  • Live a healthy lifestyle – get enough rest, relaxation; keep a healthy weight; don’t smoke; control alcohol ( at most: less than 1 drink daily for women; two for men)
  • Keep tabs of your blood cholesterol levels, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, omega 3 levels, c-reactive protein, homocysteine, vitamin D levels, blood pressure, blood sugar – all biomarkers of cardiovascular risk. Normalize your levels with lifestyle – eating, exercise, weight.
  • Pay attention to your waistline more than your total weight. Middle fat raises heart risk.

How does your diet rate? Would you like to lessen your need for cholesterol-lowering medications? You can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and protect your arteries and heart with simple food strategies and weight management. Check out my website www.georgiakostas.com to learn more. Here’s to your happy heart!

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