Tag Archives: American Heart Association

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.

Tips for Eating the Mediterranean Way

For Good Health, Lowering Cholesterol, Preventing Heart Disease & Diabetes

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month, so what better time to start eating more healthy foods and beverages than now. Here is a list of some of my favorite foods that fit into the Mediterranean Diet. They are delicious, colorful and packed with nutrients that are scientifically proven to promote good health. I encourage you to give them a try today!

  • Seafood:  Eat seafood two to four times a week. Try salmon, shrimp, snapper, tilapia or tuna fish. Choose light white tuna chunks (note: albacore may contain mercury). The American Heart Association recommends 500-1000 mg omega 3’s daily, which equals 7 grams (7000 mg) weekly.
  • Berries:  Try fresh or frozen bags of mixed berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries. Top pancakes, oatmeal, toast, yogurt and light ice cream with berries. Make a smoothie by blending together yogurt, berries, half a banana and a little orange juice.
  • Red foods:  Enjoy red foods daily. Try tomatoes, marinara sauces, carrots, cantaloupe, oranges, red onion, red bell pepper, red cabbage, red beets, red apple with peel, red grapes, purple grapes, cherries, berries eggplant and sweet potatoes.
  • Greens:  Try spinach, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce (with red veins) and broccoli.
  • Fruit & Vegetables:  Have two fruit and three vegetable servings (1/2 to 1 cup) each day. For picky eaters, get creative and find ways to sneak veggies into favorite foods.
  • Beans:  Enjoy a half cup of beans almost daily. Try different kinds of beans such as hummus, lentil soup, black bean soup, limas, black bean & corn salsa, butter beans and black eyed peas. Prepare navy beans cooked with carrots, onions and celery, or combine garbanzo beans with rice and serve on top of spinach. Dip baby carrots and red bell pepper strips in hummus as a snack.
  • Oatmeal and Whole Grains:  Oats lower cholesterol. Prepare a fiber-rich bowl of oatmeal by combining half a cup of dry oatmeal with one heaping tablespoon of Quaker Oat Bran. Add your favorite toppings such as raisins, berries, peanut butter, or chopped almonds or walnuts. Or eat three cups of Cheerios.
  • Enjoy three servings of whole grains a day. One serving equals half a cup of cooked oatmeal, brown rice,  corn, barley, a corn tortilla, two cups popcorn, six low-fat Triscuit crackers or one slice of 100% whole wheat bread such as Sara Lee, Nature’s Own or Orowheat. Choose items with the highest number of whole grains (Nature’s Own: 23 grams of whole grains per slice; Quaker oatmeal: 38 grams per bowl).
  • Lean Protein:  Choose lean beef and pork cuts, poultry without skin, seafood, nonfat milk and yogurt and 2% or low-fat cheese. Visit http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/ for recipes using lean beef.
  • Healthy Fats and Oils:  Use olive, canola, soy or sunflower oil and tub spreads such as Smart Balance HeartRight Buttery Spread (stanols added). Consume two tablespoons of healthy fats and oils daily. Eat 1.5 oz (3 tablespoons) of walnuts, almonds or pistachios daily…they lower blood fats.
  • Products that Help Lower Cholesterol:  Add one heaping teaspoon of sugar-free citrus-flavored Metamucil to a glass of water at three meals daily. Eat soluble fiber found in beans, bananas, apples, oranges, carrots, oats and eggplant. Include new foods with stanols or stenols. Consume 2 grams (2 servings) a day to lower blood fats. One cup of Smart Balance HeartRight Milk or Kroger Active Lifestyle Fat Free Milk counts as one serving, and are delicious!
  • Physical Activity:  Get up and move every hour of the day! Walk around, move your feet and arms as you sit, march in place, climb some stairs. Use bands or hand weights, toss a ball, play ping pong, throw a tennis ball, dance or do a quick set of jumping jacks. By remaining on the move, you get the benefits of improved circulation, energy and health; plus a smile on your face.

For more resources and tips, visit http://www.georgiakostas.com/. Follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my professional Facebook page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition.

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!

Follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my Facebook Fan Page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition.