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Nutrition 101: National Heart Month

February 1, 2018

MARSHALLTOWN—Since 1963, February has been celebrated as American Heart Month to encourage Americans to take action in the fight against heart disease. Each year, 1 in 4 deaths are attributed to heart disease, making heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States. You can significantly decrease your risk for heart disease through healthy lifestyle choices and managing health conditions. So let’s use this month to raise awareness about heart disease and lower these statistics. To see heart disease statistics specific to your state and county, click here.

Making healthy lifestyle changes can be challenging at times, especially when we are so accustomed to the eating habits we have followed for years. Here are a few ways to implement a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

  • Limit saturated and trans fats
  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Cut back on added sugars
  • Control portion sizes
  • Increase physical activity

Limit saturated and trans fats: Saturated fats are found in animal-based protein sources. Research shows that limiting saturated fats aids in lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels. It is recommended that no more than 7% of your total calories per day should be from saturated fats. (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2017) When reading a food label, assure that the amount of saturated fat is no more than 3 grams per serving.

Trans fats can be found in fats that are solid at room temperature such as stick margarines, butter, and shortening. Trans fats are also in processed sweets, baked goods, and some fried foods. Avoid foods that contain “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient lists as this indicates a trans fat source. Keep trans fats to 0 grams per serving.

Reduce sodium intake: The recommended daily total intake for sodium is 1,500 to 2,000 mg. (U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2017) To put this into perspective, just 1 teaspoon of salt has 2,300mg of sodium. So a little bit goes a long ways! Only 11% of dietary sodium comes from salt added to foods when cooking or eating. That means a majority of the salt is already in the product from processing and packaging. To reduce sodium intake, avoid processed foods and select foods with less than 300 mg of sodium per serving.

Cut back on added sugars: Sugars that are added to foods/beverages during processing or preparation are added sugars. These do not include natural sugars that are in fruit and milk. Major sources of added sugars are: sodas, energy drinks, sweetened fruit juice, candy, and baked goods.

Control portion sizes: The quantity of food is just as important as the quality of the foods you eat. Large portion sizes leads to overeating and excess calorie consumption. Use this hand guide to help with portion control.

Increase physical activity: In addition to proper nutrition, being active is important for good health. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing heart disease. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Click here for tips to increase your activity!

To find out more information on how small changes to your diet can help improve your health, contact your UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown dietitians at (641) 854-7530 or MT_dietitians@unitypoint.org.

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