Tag Archives: Heart disease

Heart Healthy Nutrition Mediterranean Style

MeditBy Susan Brown

” If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” ~ Hippocrates

Those of us searching for a nutritional lifestyle where good taste convenes with good health can stop looking and start eating.  The Mediterranean diet is not a single plan but it is a simple one inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of Europeans from the regions of Greece, Spain, and southern Italy to northern Africa and the Middle East.  It’s not necessary to live along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to embrace this dietary plan and lifestyle.  Healthy eating is only as far away as your local supermarket.  All that’s required is a change of mindset from “diet plan” to a healthy pattern of living and eating. 

The diet relies heavily on simply prepared unprocessed seasonal whole foods, including heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil, protein-rich legumes, fish, whole unrefined grains, nuts, olives, cheese, yogurt, fruits, poultry, limited amounts of red meat, moderate amounts of red wine and lots and lots of vegetables.  The addition of herbs and spices that allow for a reduction of salt and the use of olive oil as opposed to dairy fats contribute to healthy, flavorful and favorable choices.  The combination of these foods provides the micronutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that work cooperatively to nourish the body and protect against chronic disease. 

Continuing studies and growing research show that this ancient dietary lifestyle leads to a longer lifespan and is a major protection factor against chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and some types of cancer.  Research from the Minneapolis Heart Institute shows that a Mediterranean style diet greatly benefits those with diabetes, including lowering their A1C levels which show how well patients are managing their disease. 

Studies show that this diet is not only beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight but also for a reduction of cardiovascular risk factors including total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, blood pressure levels, and blood glucose levels.  Extensive studies also link the Mediterranean diet to reduced chances of metabolic syndrome risk factors that contribute to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. 

The Mediterranean philosophy for optimal health includes not only diet but other healthy lifestyle choices as well.  These include leisurely family meals and regular physical activity.  For the Mediterranean people food is more than simply sustenance.  Their dishes are steeped in personal history and cultural traditions.  To incorporate the health benefits associated with traditional Mediterranean diets:

  • Fresh, minimally processed foods should make up the majority of your meals. 
  • Replace butter with extra virgin olive oil.  Use it on salads, for cooking and for dipping. 
  • Snack on small quantities of nuts and seeds instead of cookies and candies. 
  • Have a generous leafy green salad every day.
  • Switch to whole grains including bread, pasta and other grains.  Whole grain must be the first ingredient on the food label.  If it says “enriched whole wheat” it is not whole grain. 
  • Have fish at least twice a week.  This can be broiled, baked or sautéed but not fried. 
  • Reduce red meat consumption and substitute with poultry or vegetarian meals.
  • Have fruit salad for dessert.
  • Add beans and lentils to your meals several times per week. 
  • Limit alcohol to a glass or two of red wine with dinner. 
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables without added sauces.
  • Avoid trans fats, processed foods, sugary sweets and fast foods. 

The flavorful Mediterranean diet with its healthy fats, nutrients and fiber means that you may eat less but you will enjoy your food more.  Savor your meals and your time with family and friends and enjoy the health benefits that these delicious nutritious foods have to offer.  If you close your eyes, you can almost feel the warm sun and smell the salty sea breezes.  Hippocrates would be pleased. 

Know Your Dietary Fats

appleBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Dietary fat is often seen as the villain when it comes to obesity and associated health conditions, such as heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.  However, dietary fats along with protein and carbohydrates are a necessary part of a healthy diet.  Fats are an indispensible source of the essential fatty acids that are needed for proper brain development and function, inflammation control, and the formation of healthy cell membranes.  Healthy fats provide a concentrated energy source for most of our cellular and life functions.  Fats aid in the transport of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K, assist in the production of hormones, maintain healthy skin and hair, and protect organs.  With 9 calories of energy in every gram, fat is the most powerful food energy source.  By contrast, proteins and carbohydrates provide 4 calories of energy in every gram. 

Dietary fat and cholesterol are not one and the same.  As a vital part of the body’s chemistry,  cholesterol is used in the production of steroid hormones that are necessary for normal development and functioning.   Cholesterol is also involved in the production of cortisol which helps regulate blood sugar levels, is used to make the bile that aids in the digestion and absorption of dietary fat, and provides immune system support.  Your body has the ability to manufacture all the cholesterol it needs for proper function. 

When consumed in excess, dietary cholesterol and animal fats affect the body’s cholesterol production.  A diet high in animal fats will cause a slowdown in the production of cholesterol, whereas a diet with foods from plant sources will cause the body to manufacture cholesterol to meet its needs.  Most Americans consume too much dietary fat and cholesterol, mainly from animal fat and prepackaged and processed foods.  Elevated blood cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.  Types of dietary fats include:

  • Lipids –  The scientific term referring to naturally occurring molecules that include fats, cholesterol and triglycerides.  Lipids are a structural component of cell membranes, and are involved in energy storage and signaling. 
  • Triglycerides – The main form of fat found in the diet and stored in the body.  Triglycerides play an important role in metabolism as energy sources and transporters of dietary fats. 

The “bad” fats:

  • Saturated fats –  Normally solid at room temperature, most saturated fats are found in animal products including meat and dairy products, and in some tropical plant oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels. 
  • Hydrogenated fats – These unsaturated fats are processed to become solid at room temperature.  Packaged and processed foods such as cookies, crackers and margarine contain hydrogenated fats.  Hydrogenated fats can also raise total cholesterol levels. 
  • Trans fatty acids –  Small amounts of trans fatty acids are found naturally occurring in meat and dairy products.  Artificial trans fats are formed during hydrogenation, where hydrogen is added to liquid oil, turning it into a solid fat.  This process extends shelf life, increases stability and provides texture.  These fats can be found in partially hydrogenated margarines, white bread, fast foods and snack foods.  The American Heart Association recommends limiting this type of dietary fat to less than 1% of your total daily caloric intake which translates to approximately 2 grams.  Trans fatty acids tend to raise total cholesterol levels. 

The “good” fats:

  • Monounsaturated Fats – Liquid at room temperature, monounsaturated fats are primarily found in plant oils and include olive, canola and peanut oil.  Fish and nuts are another good dietary source.  Monounsaturated fats lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. 
  • Polyunsaturated fats – Liquid at room temperature, sources include many common vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, safflower, sesame and sunflower oils, plus avocados, olives and walnuts.  Polyunsaturated fats lower total cholesterol levels. 
  • Essential fatty acids –  Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA are found in high-fat cold water fish, as well as nuts and seeds and fortified eggs.  Omega-6 fatty acids, or LA, can be found in soybean, corn, and safflower oils.  Essential fatty acids are not made by the body and must be obtained through the diet.  Essential fatty acids lower triglycerides and total cholesterol levels.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 and the Institute of Medicine recommend that consumption of hydrogenated and trans fats be kept to a minimum.  Consumption of trans fats raises LDL, the bad cholesterol, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.  Major contributors to trans fat intake include fried foods, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, cake, cookies, margarines, prepared cake frosting and coffee creamers. 

To reduce trans fats in the diet:

  • Read nutrition labels.  Choose products with 0 grams of trans fat.  Products containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fats can be labeled as trans fat free.  In order to avoid all trans fat, check the ingredient labels for any partially hydrogenated oil. 
  • Check labels for cholesterol content.  Look for foods with 5% or less of the Daily Value.  The American Heart Association recommends limiting dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg.
  • Limit total fat intake to less than 25 – 35% of your total daily calories.  Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% and trans fats to less than 1% of daily caloric intake.  A minimum of 10% of daily calories should come from fats.  Limit your intake to less than 78 grams of fat per day and choose healthy unsaturated fats. 
  • Limit fried fast foods which contain both saturated fat and trans fat. 
  • Choose monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  The bulk of your fat intake should come from fish, nuts, seeds and naturally occurring non-hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  • Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-fiber foods, and low fat dairy.  Choose lean meats and include cold water fish such as salmon or halibut several times a week. 

The typical American diet contains roughly 35 – 40% fat.  This dietary fat consumption plays a significant role in the obesity epidemic.  Choosing healthier types of dietary fats is one of the most important factors to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.   Reducing the total fat content of your diet will help control your weight and that alone may help you live a longer and healthier life. 

BioLipotrol by BioGenesis Nutraceuticals –  An all natural nutraceutical designed to assist the body in regulating the production and metabolism of HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.  Effective and well-tolerated forms of niacin are combined with herbal extracts for a complete and natural option for blood lipid support. 

Cholestar (K-27) by Apex Energetics –  This scientifically designed formula includes natural compounds that maintain levels of cholesterol, including LDL, triglycerides, and HDL, within  the normal range for healthy individuals. The key ingredients are red yeast rice extract, inositol hexanicotinate, and garlic extract.

Cholesterzyme Formula by Professional Solutions –  This product supports healthy cholesterol levels and provides liver support for cholesterol production. 

Essential Nutrients for Kids

Essential Nutrients for KidsBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Good nutrition helps prevent illness and disease and is essential to healthy physical and mental development. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to think of nutritional decisions as health decisions.  Nearly 1 in 3 children in America are now overweight or obese.  And like adults, kids who consistently overeat are at risk for developing the medical problems associated with being overweight, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, breathing and sleeping problems, and even depression. Later in life they are at greater risk for heart disease, heart failure, and stroke. Encouraging your child to make beneficial food choices now will help them develop wholesome eating patterns that can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.   

It’s not always easy to get kids to eat what’s on their plates.  These strategies improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits:

  • Have regular family meals.  Eating together allows parents and kids to reconnect and catch up on the day’s events.  Kids who sit down to family meals are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables and grains and are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. 
  • Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.  You control the supply lines, so stock up on fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks such as low-fat yogurt and cheese, whole grain crackers, or nuts.  Limit chips, cookies, candy and sugary drinks but don’t ban them completely.  Serve them occasionally as a special treat.  
  • Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.  Keep a positive approach to food, limit your own portions and don’t overindulge in less nutritious foods.  Kids will follow your lead. 
  • Avoid food battles which means no bargaining or bribing kids to eat everything on their plate.  Provide variety and let your child choose from what you offer.  A growing child’s eating pattern will vary day to day.  Let them decide when they are hungry and when they are full. 
  • Involve kids in the process.  Kids love to help in the kitchen so select age appropriate tasks for them to do.  Let them be involved in occasional meal planning and help them make decisions about what to pack for lunch. 

Nutrition for kids is based on the same principle as nutrition for adults.  In addition to the nutrient dense foods of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, there are vitamins and minerals that all growing children need for growth and development:

Vitamin A  –  Vitamin A  boosts the immune system which fights common infections.  Vitamin A promotes general eye health plus color and night vision.  Make sure your child gets plenty of orange vegetables and fortified milk. 

B Vitamins  –  B complex vitamins are needed for anemia prevention and for energy production and usage.  B vitamins are found in whole grains, fish, chicken, leafy greens, dairy and meat.

Vitamin C –  Vitamin C helps speed healing of cuts and scrapes and helps ward off colds and  fight infections.  Fruits, especially oranges, and green leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin D Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption for developing strong bones and teeth.  Foods fortified with vitamin D include milk, cereal and eggs. 

Calcium Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth and can help reduce the chances of developing age related bone disease.  The majority of our lifetime bone mass is built during our pre-teen and teen years.  Low-fat dairy is the best source of calcium in a child’s diet and includes  cheese, milk and yogurt.  Fortified cereals and orange juice are options for those who are lactose intolerant. 

Choline –  An important essential nutrient needed for the central nervous system function and cell growth.  Eggs, fish, meat, broccoli and chicken are good sources. 

IronFor healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body and help keep kids energized.  Iron can be found in fortified foods, beans and lean red meats. 

MagnesiumImportant for energy and healthy heart function.  Look for magnesium in cereals, brown rice and nuts. 

Potassium –  Kids need potassium to support their organs and cells.  Potassium maintains blood pressure, supports the heart and muscle function.  Bananas and low-fat dairy are good sources. 

ZincZinc helps fight viruses and supports the immune system.  Zinc is necessary for growth and development.  Look for zinc in chicken, beans and fortified cereals. 

FiberKids need fiber to aid digestion and prevent constipation.  Offer lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains including high-fiber cereals.

Water – Limit sugar laden fruit juices to breakfast time and give your child the choice of milk or water at other times.  Be sure to provide plenty of water throughout the day and encourage your child to drink up. 

Antioxidants –  Antioxidants help defend against harmful substances that can damage healthy cells.  Almonds, berries, citrus fruits and carrots are some kid friendly foods high in antioxidants. 

Essential fatty acidsChildren require both EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids as part of their healthy diet, especially for brain development and eye function.  If your child refuses to eat fish regularly or at all,  supplements made for children containing EPA/DHA are a safe, effective way to give your child’s mental and physical well-being a boost. 

It’s best not to get into a battle of wills at mealtimes.  Try to make breakfast and lunch the priority meals as young children are often tired and less likely to eat well at dinnertime.  Offer a variety of healthy foods and allow your child to be in charge of choosing which items to eat and how much.  Children allowed to make their own decisions at mealtimes are more likely to enjoy their meal and feel good about themselves.  You can feel good also, knowing that you are raising a healthy eater and establishing patterns that will lead to a lifetime of healthy nutrition. 

Nutritional supplements for kids:

Springboard SuperNutes by Ortho Molecular –  Super Nutrients Jr. is a great tasting strawberry-kiwi multivitamin and mineral supplement containing the most important vitamin and mineral components needed for a growing child. Besides having a solid scientific formulation of the highest quality professional-grade vitamins, SuperNutes also contains generous doses of industry leading Albion® minerals, setting SuperNutes in a class by itself when compared with other children’s multivitamins.

ProOmega Junior Minis by Nordic Naturals –  Perfect for ages three and older, these provide the essential fatty acid nutrition for optimal development.  Children find the tiny, pearl-sized soft gels easy to chew, and they enjoy the great-tasting, all-natural strawberry flavor.  With EPA and DHA from purified deep sea fish oil. 

Vital Kids Berry Well Immune Support by Vital Nutrients –  Berry Well is a uniquely concentrated botanical extract formula containing Elderberry Extract.  This formula provides enhanced levels of natural compounds that provide immune system support. Studies have shown that the properties of Elderberry Extract and Arabinogalactan maintain healthy immune function and promote well-being. 

Multigenics Chewable Orange by Metagenics  –  Multigenics chewable is a high quality multiple vitamin and mineral supplement with excellent nutrient bioavailability designed especially for children.  This formula provides an essential, comprehensive foundation for optimal health and contains highly absorbable amino acid chelates, ratio-balanced B vitamins, and broad-spectrum antioxidant protection.

Super Immune Space Sprinkles by Douglas Laboratories This product provides support for normal immune function with a specially formulated blend of probiotics in a naturally sweet base.  Super Immune Space Sprinkles change color when sprinkled on food and are designed specifically for children. 

Nordic Omega-3 Fishies by Nordic NaturalsThese easy to chew treats are rich in EPA and DHA for development support of the brain, eyes and the nervous and immune systems.  Delicious tangerine taste for even the pickiest of eaters.  For ages 2 and over. 

Nutri-West Chewable C-500 –  A pleasant tasting tablet ideal for children or for anyone looking for rapid absorption of Vitamin C.  Each naturally flavored tablet supplies 500 mg of Vitamin C (as sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid) , 1,000 units of natural beta carotene, citrus bioflavonoids, hesperidin complex, rutin, and acerola.

Little One by Metabolic Maintenance –  A one-per-day multivitamin for children 6 through 12 years of age.  Each capsule contains only the finest ingredients, in the most bioavailable forms, in a very small, easy to swallow capsule.