Eat Your Way to Heart Health

Woman eating salad and working

Women's Health Monthly: February 2017

This February, we're celebrating American Heart Month by providing you with some inspiration and resources, all focused on heart-healthy eating. We asked three OHSU experts on heart hearth and nutrition to give us their best advice for women seeking to improve their heart health through nutrition. 

Profile of a Heart-Healthy Diet 

Overall, our experts agreed that a heart-healthy diet means eating mostly: 

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy proteins (seafood, lean meat, nuts, legumes)
  • Healthy fats (plant-based liquid oils, nuts, seeds, fatty fish)
  • Whole grains 
And limiting consumption of: 
  • Saturated fat 
  • Processed foods 
  • Refined carbohydrates 
  • Alcohol 
Start Young and Make It Sustainable
Christie Naze, R.D., C.D.E., clinical dietitian specialist at the OHSU Center for Women's Health 

Heart disease risk increases as we age, but that is no reason to put off heart-healthy eating. "The younger you are when you start eating a heart-healthy diet, the easier it will be to stick with it," says Naze. It's never too early and never too late to improve your nutrition. 

Naze also recommends avoiding harsh, highly-restrictive diets. These kinds of diets are rarely sustainable. "Balance what tastes good with what is healthy and good for you," she advises. 

When Women Eat Healthy, Generations are Impacted
Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., Director of The Moore Institute 

Research by Thornburg and others has shown that the American diet has been contributing to poor health, including heart disease, for three generations now. "This is bad for us, but it's also bad for future generations," says Dr. Thornburg. "An increased risk for things like heart disease is passed down to your children and even your grandchildren." 

The good news is that women can have a real impact on improving heart health in the United States. "Women tend to have a tremendous influence on not just their own diet, but on the diets of their families," says Dr. Thornburg. 

Cook at Home
Tracy Severson, R.D., L.D., dietitian for the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute 

Packaged foods are full of refined and processed ingredients that offer little or no nutritional value. Furthermore, these foods tend to be full of the saturated fat and refined carbohydrates we need to avoid. The solution? "Cook at home more often," Severson says.  

Even seemingly-healthy restaurant meals often contain excess sugar, salt and fat that you can't see. "Cooking food yourself almost always means less added sugar and sodium," says Severson. When you cook for yourself, you know exactly what goes into your food. 

Resources for Heart-Healthy Eating 

Recommended by our three experts, these resources provide information, inspiration, recipes and tools to kick start or help you maintain heart-healthy eating habits. 

  • KCVI's Center for Preventive Cardiology health information library – features cooking demonstrations and recipes, as well as recorded lectures by OHSU experts 
  • My Heart Healthy Plate – a visual depiction of a heart-healthy diet 
  • My Pregnancy Plate – a visual depiction of a healthy diet for women who are pregnant 
  • The Moore Institute's Better the Future blog – stories and resources focused on nutrition and how what we eat today impacts the health of future generations 
  • American Heart Association's Go Red for Women – resources and information about heart disease and nutrition for women, as well as inspiration and ways to get involved 
  • Million Hearts – run by the Department of Health &Human Services, features information about heart disease control and prevention, including a whole section on heart-healthy eating 
  • Eating Well – a large database of healthy recipes and meal plans 
  • American Diabetes Association – food and fitness tools for people with diabetes and anyone who wants to lower their risk of developing diabetes 
  • Oldways – information about the traditional heart-healthy Mediterranean diet along with a variety of recipes 
  • California's healthy food boards for almonds, walnuts, and avocados – each site features nutritional information and recipes 

 

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