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Healthy Hints from the LCSD Food Service Department
Friday, January 15, 2016 -
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Heart health is an important component of chronic disease prevention. Let’s take a look at how dietary fat and physical activity can help us achieve our wellness goals.
Heart Healthy Fats
Unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) are the heart healthy varieties we want to choose most of the time. Foods such as avocado, olive, sunflower, safflower, and sesame oils, nuts, nut butters, and seeds contain unsaturated fat. These fats are liquid at room temperature and therefore better for our arteries.
Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent for our heart and have many anti-inflammatory properties, an excellent choice for chronic disease prevention. This compound is called an essential fatty acid because it cannot be made by the body and must be consumed in our daily diet. EPA, DHA, and ALA are the three components of this heart healthy fat. Food sources of DHA and EPA are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna. The American Heart Association recommends choosing fatty fish twice per week (3.5 oz serving each). Foods rich in ALA include flax, walnuts, vegetable oil, and leafy greens. Talk with your doctor if you are pregnant. There are different, specific recommendations regarding fish intake.
Heart Unhealthy Fats
Saturated fats and trans fats are heart unhealthy and should be limited. These are solid at room temperature and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. Trans fat also decreases HDL (good) cholesterol - double trouble! Avoid trans fat by reading labels in the grocery store before purchasing items. While some foods may boast “zero trans fat” on the label, they may still contain this hidden fat, as the FDA allows foods with 0.5 grams or less to use this statement. While this may not seem like much, we should limit trans fat to less than 1 gram per day and these items can add up! To avoid this trap, watch out for anything with the word hydrogenated on the label. Hydrogenation is a process used to make food shelf-stable, and in doing so creates a product with trans fat. Saturated fats include items such as butter, coconut oil, bacon, sausage, full-fat dairy, and cheese. Dietary guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of our daily calories and consuming trans fat as sparingly as possible.
Make Daily Movement Part of your Routine
While some contributors to heart health are hereditary, there are ways you can be proactive no matter what your history. In addition to a healthy diet, exercise is one of the most important preventative factors in heart health. Did you know that regular physical activity can help increase your HDL (good) cholesterol? Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 20 minutes of vigorous activity on most days of the week. If you are trying to achieve a healthier weight, set your goals a bit higher- about 60 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Always speak with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. It’s important to choose something you enjoy so physical activity does not seem like a chore. You should have fun! Try out a new class at the gym or dance around the living room with your kids. Write down your workouts in a planner or add them to your phone calendar as you would an important appointment. You’ll be more likely to follow through.
Lindsey LaDue, RD, CDN is the school dietitian for OCM BOCES.
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