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Best Foods for a Healthy Heart.

Posted by mstami on 2008.07.06 at 13:09
By Simontacchi, CCN, MS Carol
eDiets Contributor

Eating for a healthy heart is not difficult. Just eat real food. "Yeah, right," you say. "What's that?"

Perhaps the injunction to "just eat real food" is not as simple as it sounds. We are so confused by conflicting messages in the media. Yesterday, oatmeal was good for the heart, but today it is bad (high in carbohydrates). Yesterday, eggs were bad for the heart (high in cholesterol), but today they are good (low in carbohydrates).

t is easy to see why we are bewildered. It is enough to toss it all aside and dip into a hot fudge sundae.

Before we stoop to that level, however, let's simplify a diet for a healthy heart. Can you remember "two sets of three?"

Three Foods You Should Rarely (if Ever) Eat
Bacon and other rancid fats top the list of nefarious foods. Considering the popularity of high-protein diets that emphasize bacon and eggs for breakfast, we're probably consuming more bacon than ever, but science (and common sense) says that bacon and other processed meat consumption are associated with an increased risk of certain forms of cancer, diabetes (a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and stroke.

Carbonated beverages are second on the list. This subject hits so close to home that I ask the studies to deliver the message: "Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a greater magnitude in weight gain and an increased risk for development of Type 2 diabetes in women..."

Another study reports, "Increasing intake of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates... can create self-perpetuating insulin resistance state and predicts greater CHD (coronary heart disease) risk..." And, "recent data suggest that a high intake of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates... may increase the risk of coronary heart disease by aggravating glucose intolerance and dyslipidemia."

Soft drinks certainly fall into the category of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates. What this simply means is that soft drinks cause weight gain, increased risk of diabetes, insulin resistance, and elevated blood fats, all of which lead directly to coronary heart disease.

You'll hate the third category of "no-no foods": processed carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc. These foods also fall into the class of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates and lead directly to an increased risk of heart disease.

PAGEBREAK Three Foods You Simply MUST Eat
Enough bad news! These sensual foods delight the palate and the eye. You will love eating these foods that protect and heal the heart!

First, you should certainly eat walnuts. Our local physician routinely prescribes "14 walnuts per day" to his cardiac patients. What a wonderful doctor!

The "nut people" petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2003 for a health claim, because nuts have been shown to contain more unsaturated fat than saturated fat; they also contain fiber and phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol.

Unfortunately, FDA turned down the petition for scientific reasons of their own, but walnuts are still a great food for the heart. They are also anti-inflammatory, which helps reduce the risk of certain forms of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.

Olive oil is another hero of the heart. The traditional Mediterranean diet has been studied for the "magic bullet" that protects these people from cardiovascular disease, even though their diets are typically higher in fat than Western recommendations. One of the protective factors may be olive oil.

Third, drink red wine (nutritionists can be fun, too!). The ubiquitous glass of red wine on tables throughout many Mediterranean countries provides tremendous benefits of specific antioxidants found in wine, particularly trans-resveratrol, a natural compound found in grapes and other fruits. Polyphenolic antioxidants enhance antioxidant activity, stimulate appetite and digestion, inhibit the peroxidation of LDL cholesterol and reduce blood clotting tendencies. They also inhibit LDL oxidation and platelet aggregation, reduce inflammation and enhance immune functions.

Whew! That's quite a list! We suggest you indulge in a glass of organic wine once or twice per week to avoid the sulfates.

Amazingly, we can pull these recommendations into one dish, your heart will love. Prepare a daily salad with at least five different brightly-colored vegetables, sprinkle raw walnuts on top and liberally splash it with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Then pour a glass of wine and relax while these wonderful foods lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

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