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Published on July 25, 2014

What You Should Be Eating for a Healthy Heart

If you don’t burn off what you're eating - you'll end up wearing it.

If you don’t burn off what you're eating -
you'll end up wearing it.

You’ve been told time and time again that eating healthy food is the key to good health. But one look at a deliciously decadent slice of cake or gooey chocolate chip cookie and you’re done. Eating well may be good for your health, but it doesn’t make you feel good like a slice of chocolate cake can.

However, what you eat can actually have a huge impact on how you feel, especially when it comes to heart health.

“Food is a big part of heart health because you are what you eat and if you don’t burn it off you will wear it,” said Howard T. Gitter, M.D., a cardiologist at Crozer-Keystone Health System.

Certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain phytonutrients, which are found in certain plants and believed to improve human health and help prevent various diseases, such as heart disease. That’s right, simply eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones can be key to lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease. But you need to eat a good variety of these heart-healthy foods to ensure you get all of the different nutrients your body craves.

So, what are these miracle foods you should be stocking up on?

Basically, you’re going to want a mix of fresh fruit, vegetables (e.g. carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, soybeans), lean protein (e.g. chicken without the skin), whole grains and healthy fats, commonly found in almonds and salmon or tuna.

“In general, I tell my patients to eat more fish,” said Dr. Gitter. “It’s a good source of protein and contains omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of coronary disease and stroke.”

“When you cook, use monounsaturated fats (lowers the LDL/bad cholesterol), such as olive oil, peanut oil and avocado or polyunsaturated fats like leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds.” When it comes to dairy, Dr. Gitter said to use low fat or skim milk instead of whole milk or cream.

Conversely, certain foods can have a negative affect on your health and increase your risk of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. In addition to avoiding added sugars and simple carbohydrates (commonly found in soft drinks, cookies and other baked goods), be sure to avoid processed and fatty meats, such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, which often have added sodium. You also should stay away from trans-fats or unsaturated fats, which can increase LDL levels.

“I also tell patients to avoid caffeine and energy drinks, as they may increase the heart rate and may lead to arrhythmias or palpitations of the heart,” Dr. Gitter said.

In addition to eating right, it’s important to lead a healthy lifestyle.

“To keep healthy and keep your blood pressure down, avoid salt, exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes, four times a week) and stay hydrated while exercising,” said Dr. Gitter.

Although it might take some time to adjust to a new diet, consider making the change with a family member or friend so you can encourage one another. If you can improve your health and feel better, why not give it a shot?

Crozer-Keystone Nutrition Counseling/
Medical Nutrition Therapy

You can learn how to eat healthy meals and improve your overall health at the Crozer-Keystone Nutrition Counseling and Medical Nutrition Therapy center. Call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) to request an appointment with a registered dietician.

Crozer-Chester Medical Center
One Medical Center Boulevard, Ground Floor
Upland, PA  19013

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