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Posts Tagged ‘ Heart Health ’

Eat your heart out with these healthy tips.

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, Eat your heart out with these 11 healthy tips.

You can also read it HERE.

February is American Heart month sponsored by The American Heart Association. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.

For some good news, however, heart disease can often be prevented by making healthy food and lifestyle choices. As a nutritionist, I often work with clients to help them develop a healthy diet and lifestyle to prevent heart disease.

Below are 11 simple — and healthy — tips for heart health.

1. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal.

Oatmeal not only tastes yummy but it is also good for the heart as it is rich in soluble fiber, shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Beta glucans, the kind fiber in oatmeal, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and for weight control. Oatmeal also contains magnesium and potassium, minerals which contribute to a healthy heartbeat.

2. Watch your portion by using a smaller bowl and spoon.

A simple way to practice portion control is to use smaller plates; we tend to eat less when we use smaller plates and bowls. And… use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon — you will probably eat even less.

3. Top your oatmeal with sliced banana.

Bananas are rich in vitamins and minerals, in particular potassium, which help promote heart health. They are also relatively low in calories and high in fiber to help keep your weight at bay.

4. Include a bean soup for lunch.

Beans contain soluble fiber which help lower cholesterol. Lentil and split pea soup are great choices. They are also filling and help keep you satisfied.

5. Snack on a handful of mixed nuts.

Nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats and have been shown to reduce heart deaths in the elderly. Nuts also help to control weight. The key is to snack on nuts instead of chips, and practice portion control. Aim for approximately ¼ cup or one layer of your palm.

6. Start your dinner with a colorful salad.

Starting your meal with a colorful salad is a great way to boost heart healthy nutrients in your diet. Vegetable salads are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. The different colors provide different nutrients so throw in dark greens which are high in folate, tomatoes high in lycopene and yellow peppers which are full of vitamin C.

7. Dress it with olive oil.

Olive oil contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Best to use an olive oil based dressing over creamy varieties such as blue cheese. However, it’s important not to over pour; aim for 1-2 tablespoons, or a shot glass worth.

8. Cook dinner at home.

People who cook dinner at home tend to eat healthier and take in fewer calories. No surprise. Restaurant portions are huge and full of all sorts of hidden ingredients which are loaded with calories.

9. Enjoy grilled salmon or arctic char as your main course.

Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be good for the heart. Grill your fish with your favorite spices and a drizzle of olive oil.

10. Have cauliflower as a side dish.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, a cousin to broccoli and Brussels sprouts, high in fiber and low in calories. It is an excellent, low-calorie source of potassium. One cup of chopped raw cauliflower contains 320 mg in only 27 calories

11. Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate for dessert.

Saving the best for last, research found that people who eat dark chocolate have lower rates of heart disease than people who do not. Chocolate contains flavonols, phytochemicals which may reduce heart disease risk. However, remember that amounts count and aim for one small square.

And, finally, because no one got heart disease from a deficiency of chocolate, if you are not a chocolate lover, no need to start indulging. Finishing off your meal with fresh fruit will do just fine.

We would love to hear your favorite heart-healthy foods.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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5 Ways to Build a Better Burger

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post. “5 Ways to Build a Better Burger.”

You can also read it HERE.

Summer is the season for barbecues. That often means burgers and hot dogs. As a nutritionist, I suggest limiting our intake of red meat and processed foods. However, if you want to indulge in an occasional burger, here are five ways to build a better one.

1. Top your burger with sliced tomato.

Instead of using ketchup, opt for fresh tomatoes, which are low in calories and sugar and contain the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C.

2. Add fresh avocado to your burger.

Instead of adding mayonnaise to your burger, try adding several slices of fresh avocado instead. Not only is avocado moist and delicious, it offers up health benefits as well. A UCLA study found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a lean burger, rather than eating a burger alone, may curb the production of compounds that contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is a risk factor that may be associated with heart disease. An added benefit to eating avocado is that it contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and the antioxidant vitamin E.

3. Choose a whole wheat bun.

Instead of grabbing for a white bun, use a whole wheat bun instead. A whole wheat bun is more nutritious, boosting your fiber intake and your intake of vitamins and minerals including magnesium and folate. Current guidelines suggest that we limit our intake of refined grains and choose whole wheat products instead.

4. Go single.

Watch your portion size by choosing a single hamburger patty instead of the double and triple burgers we so often see at fast-food chains. Indeed, a double burger will give us twice the calories and fat as would a single burger.

5. Try a veggie burger.

Eat a bean-based veggie burger instead of a regular hamburger. Bean and legumes are a great plant based protein while also contributing to heart health. Not only do veggie burgers taste great, they are rich in soluble fiber and devoid of saturated fat and fairly low in calories.

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10 Smart Food Swaps for a Healthy Heart

Below is my latest blog post for American Heart Month “10 Smart Food Swaps for a Healthy Heart.

You can also read it on Huffington Post.


February marks the 50th anniversary of American Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one killer in Americans. For the good news, however, following a heart healthy diet and lifestyle can make a big difference in helping to prevent heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends choosing a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and to include nuts and seeds, fatty fish and heart-healthy fats. It also recommends limiting foods high in trans fats, saturated fats and sodium.

As a nutritionist counseling clients on heart health, rather than advise clients just on what foods to avoid, I like to empower them by offering healthy food choices and substitutions to make.

Below are 10 smart food swaps which can make a huge difference to the health of your heart. These are simple tweaks to your diet that can boost your nutrition and they also taste great.

1. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal instead of cream of wheat.
Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and for weight control. Oatmeal also contains the minerals magnesium and potassium also good for the heart.

2. Top your oatmeal with blueberries instead of sugar.
Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods around, and they contribute to health, including heart health. With only 80 calories per cup and low in fat, these tasty blue gems are packed with fiber, phytochemicals, vitamin C, and an excellent source of the mineral manganese. Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to heart health and a reduction of other chronic diseases. You can also include them in your diet all year long: they can be purchased fresh and are also available frozen throughout the year.

3. Eat a bean-based veggie burger instead of a hamburger for lunch.
Bean and legumes are a great plant based protein while also contributing to heart health. They are rich in soluble fiber, devoid of saturated fat, and fairly low in calories. Hamburgers on the other hand, are high in unhealthy saturated fats which have been shown to elevate “bad” LDL cholesterol.

4. Top your burger with lettuce and tomato instead of cheese.
Lettuce and tomato are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and contains few calories and virtually no fat. They contain the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.

5.  Snack on walnuts instead of chips.
Hungry for a snack? Adding walnuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids’s that can benefit the heart, brain and skin. These tasty nuts also contain the antioxidant vitamin E.

6. Start your dinner with a colorful salad instead of fried mozzarella sticks.
Starting your meal with a colorful salad is a terrific way to boost heart healthy nutrients in your diet. Salads and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. The different colors provide different nutrients so throw in romaine lettuce rich in the B vitamin folate, red cherry tomatoes rich in lycopene and carrots which are full of beta carotene.

7. Top your salad with avocado instead of croutons.
Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, a good fat which may contribute to heart health. Avocados are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E. Not only is this green fruit (yes, it is a fruit) good for the heart, it tastes great and adds a zest of flavor.

8. Choose olive oil instead of butter.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, also known as a heart-healthy fat. Diets rich in olive oil have been associated with heart health. This oil is is also rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols which protects blood vessels and other components of the heart. Next time you visit your favorite restaurant, dip your bread in olive oil instead of butter.

9. Choose grilled salmon instead of fried flounder.
We hear that fish is good for the heart. In particular, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are chock full of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that have been shown to benefit the heart as well as the brain.

10. Drink a glass of red wine instead of a soda.
Moderate amounts of alcohol (one drink for women and two for men) have been shown to contribute to heart health and may improve good HDL cholesterol levels. For an added boost, red wine in particular, contains polyphenols, including resveratrol, which have been associated with an increase in good cholesterol and a decrease in inflammation.

Let’s toast to a healthy heart. We would love to hear any heart-healthy food swaps you have made.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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10 Foods to Eat for Heart Health

Below is my latest blog post on heart healthy foods for Huffington Post. You can also read it here.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S. February is American Heart Month, and a time to raise awareness about heart disease and to educate the public on ways we can live heart-healthier lives. Here are several foods to include in your diet this month in honor of American Heart Month.

1 Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber and contains beta-glucans, which help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. One half-cup serving provides about 4.5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

2. Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with a reduction in heart disease risk. Salmon is also a natural source of healthy protein and vitamin D. One three-ounce serving — the size of a deck of cards — contains 17 grams of protein. The American Heart Association recommends including at least two servings of fish per week (particularly fatty fish).

3. Broccoli is chock-full of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. It is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, which also includes Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, and collards. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties.

4. Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and contain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. Regular consumption of peanuts has been associated with lower risk for coronary heart disease in people who eat them instead of other high-fat foods. Peanut consumption has been shown to improve lipid profiles in those with high cholesterol.

5. Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which may help raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E.

6. Pistachios contain healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They are also rich in plant stanols; research found that substituting these jade gems for fatty meats can actually lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol.

7. Cantaloupe, a member of the melon family is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor. It is also rich in the mineral potassium, which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. A one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories which can certainly help with weight control.

8. Red wine, in moderation, is associated with heart health and contains a high levels of antioxidants. Polyphenols, including resveratrol, are associated with an increase in good cholesterol, a reduction in bad cholesterol, and a decrease in inflammation.

9. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated, heart-healthy fat. Diets rich in olive oil, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been associated with heart health. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, like polyphenols, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, which can help protect blood vessels and other components of the heart.

10. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant associated with cardiovascular health. There are many different varieties of tomatoes, and they all contain important antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E. Tomatoes are also low in calories with one1 medium tomato has about 20 calories.

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February is heart month: a nutrition cheat sheet

In honor of heart health month, which is held the month of February, below are nutrition guidelines and tips on eating for a healthy heart.

* CHOOSE A DIET RICH IN  FRUITS, VEGETABLES, AND WHOLE GRAINS.

* CHOOSE A DIET LOW IN SATURATED FAT AND TRANS FATS: LIMIT FRIED FOODS, FATTY MEAT, BUTTER, AND MARGARINE.

* INCLUDE FOODS RICH IN OMEGA 3 FATS:  SALMON, SARDINES, WALNUTS, AND FLAXSEEDS

* CHOOSE HEART HEALTHY FATS: NUTS, OLIVE OIL, CANOLA OIL, AVOCADO.

* LIMIT INTAKE OF SODIUM: DO NOT USE SALT SHAKER; USE HERBS AND SPICES INSTEAD; AVOID PROCESSED FOODS.

Below are BEST BETS: foods to include for heart health.

GRAINS/STARCHES

Choose foods high in SOLUBLE FIBER to reduce cholesterol levels

grains: oat bran, oatmeal, barley

starchy vegetables: sweet potato, winter squash (butternut, acorn)

Choose whole grains instead of white bread products

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Choose FRESH fruits and vegetables—they are rich in ANTIOXIDANTS, OTHER VITAMINS/MINERALS, FIBER and low in calories

FRUITS: citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, banana, apples, pears

fruit juices such as orange and grapefruit (watch portions of juice)

VEGETABLES: broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes,

spinach, cauliflower

MEATS AND ALTERNATIVES

Choose LEAN poultry: chicken breast without skin, fresh turkey breast

Choose fresh fish: baked, broiled or grilled

cod, flounder, red snapper, filet of sole (low in fat)

salmon, tuna, sardines  (rich in heart healthy omega 3’s)

Include beans, peas (split peas, chick peas), lentils: they are high in fiber and low in fat.

Include soy products–tofu, soy milk (good source calcium)

Limit red meat as it is high in saturated fat.

DAIRY PRODUCTS

Choose lowfat milk and dairy products

Skim milk, yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, low fat ricotta

Limit high fat cheese products as they are high in saturated fat.

FATS

Choose moderate amounts of olive oil and canola oil–as they are  high in monounsaturated fat (“Good fat”).

CAUTION:  USE IN MODERATION–ALL FATS HAVE ALOT OF  CALORIES.

Include nuts and seeds in moderation.

Limit butter, coconut oil, palm oil (high in saturated fat).

Limit margarine and other partially hydrogenated products (high in trans fats).

MISC

Avoid foods high in salt and sodium: pickles, soy sauce, processed foods, salt shakers

Limit high fat cakes and pastries.  Save for a treat.

Watch portion sizes!

Exercise!!!

© 2013 Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, CDN

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Health benefits of legumes

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post on the benefits of legumes.

You can also read it here.

Legumes — a class of vegetables including beans, peas, and lentils — are terrific to include in the diet. They are rich in and fiber and chock full of vitamins and minerals, including folate, manganese, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They are also economical and easy to store, and can be used in many dishes.

A terrific substitute for meat, legumes offer a nutrient-dense plant protein that is much lower in saturated fat and a good source of fiber and phytochemicals. No wonder they have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and lower body weights.

Even if you are a meat lover, I would still suggest incorporating legumes into your diet.

(Note: Legumes are not fattening when consumed in place of high fat-meat! I stress this because as a clinician, I have had many clients afraid to eat legumes for fear of gaining weight.)

Here are six winners that I love and recommend. They can be incorporated into a salad dish or in a soup.

  • Lentils offer the added benefit of being a significant source of iron, in addition to the benefits from the soluble fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates that all legumes offer. Lentils are also high in the B-vitamin biotin, which aids in the body’s metabolism and growth.
  • Kidney Beans are a chock full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, including potassium and the B-vitamins folate and thiamin.
  • Green Peas offer a significant source of fiber and protein. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that are essential for good eye health and have been suggested to lower rates of cataracts. Peas also pack vitamin K, which helps with bone health and blood clotting.
  • Chickpeas are a great option for plant protein and their fiber, they also contain magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate. Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, is delicious with crackers or veggies as an afternoon snack.
  • Black beans, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and offer a great alternative to the saturated fat found in meat. What set black beans apart, however, are their at least eight different flavonoids, called anthocyanins, which serve as cancer-combating antioxidants in the body.
  • Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and contain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. It is no surprise that regular consumption of peanuts has been associated with lower risk for coronary heart disease in people who eat them in place of other high-fat foods.
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Healthy grains!

The post below also appears as a blog post for  Huffington Post and can be found here.

With the low-carb movement, so many clients that I counsel fear eating grains and starches altogether, and think they are better off without them. This is false!! Certain starches are not particularly healthy such as bagels and muffins; they are oversized and each are equivalent to eating around 6 slices of bread. But many grains–whole grains–are indeed healthy and should be included as part of a healthy diet. Indeed, the 2010 dietary guidelines suggest that at least half of our grains be whole grains.  Here’s why.

Including whole grains in your diet is a great way to boost your nutrient intake. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, and protective phytonutrients. A good source of fiber and complex carbohydrates, they are relatively low in calories and fat. It is no surprise that diets rich in whole grains may offer protection against heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers.

Whole grains are healthier than processed grains because they provide many more nutrients. They also offer a greater sense of fullness in people who eat them. Whole grains are made from the whole kernels of grain, including both the inside part of the grain and the outer covering. Processed grains remove the outer covering along with a lot of the nutrition and fiber. Fiber helps prevent constipation, and may cut the risk of heart disease, diverticulosis, and certain cancers.

Most Americans do not consume enough whole grains. For many of us, eating more whole grains requires learning about foods rarely seen in the traditional American diet.  As you will see below, many delicious and nutritious grains exist.  And, if you are gluten free, no need to worry, as many terrific and versatile grains are now readily available on the market.

Skip the white pasta and white rice and include healthy grains instead: brown rice, kasha, quinoa, spelt, and whole wheat pasta, to name a few.  Here are some nutritional benefits of some healthy, tasty, and versatile grains:

Amaranth is a great grain for those with gluten intolerances and wheat allergies. It also has a terrific nutritional profile.  One cup of cooked amaranth delivers lots of fiber, protein, and is rich in minerals including iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. It also contains betalains, a class of antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation.

Barley is a good source of soluble fiber which may reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Barley contains B vitamins, and the minerals selenium and copper. While pearled barley is not technically a whole grain, as it is polished, and some nutrients are lost, hulled barley is healthier, and contains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  However, even pearled barley is a healthier alternative to refined grains such as white rice, couscous, or pastas made from white flours.

Brown rice is a much better choice than white rice. It contains fiber, B vitamins, and a variety of minerals. It contains nearly three times the fiber as white rice. A mere ½ cup serving of cooked brown rice contains nearly a half day’s worth of the mineral manganese which works with various enzymes facilitating body processes.

Buckwheat brought to America by Russian and Polish immigrants who called it “kasha,” is a good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium, and zinc, as well as flavonoids like quercetin and rutin which contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A great choice for those following a gluten free diet.  One cup cooked Kasha contains 5 grams of fiber.

Bulgur wheat is higher in fiber than most grains. One cup cooked bulgur contains 8 grams of fiber. The insoluble fiber it contains is helpful in preventing constipation and diverticular disease. It also contains iron, magnesium, manganese, and  B vitamins. Because bulgur is made from precooked wheat berries, it can be reconstituted by soaking or by simmering. It’s wonderful nutty flavor and light texture makes it a great choice for salads and side dishes.

Millet contains manganese and phosphorus which may contribute to bone health. It is also rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B6, and folate. Added bonus: it is gluten-free.

Oats are a good source of soluble fiber and contain beta-glucans which helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. They also contain insoluble fiber which prevents constipation and promotes regular bowel movements. Moderate amounts of pure, uncontaminated oats are tolerated by most people with celiac disease, but it is important to be aware that many commercial oat products on the market have been cross-contaminated with wheat, barley and/or rye.

Quinoa is a nutrition treasure and has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. It is high in the amino acid, lysine, which is important for tissue growth and repair. It is also rich in the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and copper, and a great choice for the gluten free.

Spelt has gained popularity as a healthy and delicious grain due to its nutty flavor, high protein and nutrition content. It is low in fat, high in fiber, and contains B vitamins and minerals including potassium, magnesium, manganese and copper. And it has gained a following for those intolerant to wheat. Many people with wheat allergies can tolerate spelt well.

Whole wheat products are not stripped of nutrients and fiber like refined products. Whole wheat foods such as whole wheat pastas, breads, and couscous contain insoluble fiber, which prevents constipation and may be protective against certain cancers. They also contain an array of vitamins and minerals.

Aim for 100% whole wheat products such as whole wheat pasta and couscous.

Wild rice is high in protein and fiber and low in fat. It also contains the minerals potassium and phosphorus and B vitamins.

Savvy shopping tip: Choose grains that are 100% whole grain. When reading food labels, look out for words such as “multigrain” or “stoneground” which do not necessarily mean whole grain. And the phrase “made from whole grain” is generally used on products that aren’t 100% whole grain.

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