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Weight & Waistlines: Heart Disease Risk Factors

What's weight got do to with heart disease? Plenty!

The Benefits of Certain Foods

While losing weight clearly matters, experts say changing eating habits may also help your heart -- regardless of any weight loss.

Here's what McCauley says is the recipe for success.
Cut back on:

  • Sweets
  • Simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice
  • Saturated fats such as butter, cream and other animal fat

The add more:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and whole cereals

"If you change your eating habits ... you'll automatically see some drop in your cholesterol, and that, in and of itself, will help reduce some of your risks right away," says McCauley. This is also the dietary recommendation of the American Heart Association.

Nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD tells WebMD we should also avoid tropical oils like palm, corn, and coconut oils. Instead go for olive, canola or grape seed oils. She also recommends avoiding foods high in hydrogenated oils or trans fats, which are found in many commercial baked goods lining the supermarket shelves.

"They increase your triglycerides, which can contribute to cholesterol and help increase the risk of clot formation," says Heller a senior clinical nutritionist with the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention Center at NYU's Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine.

Also important: If you can't eat differently, at least eat less. Indeed, if you follow the logic of smaller portions, they say, you'll probably see some weight loss and you'll definitely see an improvement in your risk of heart disease.

"Controlling portion sizes is major. But unfortunately, most folks don't have a clue as to what a portion should look like," says Heller.

If you are at a loss as to how much to put on your plate, you can try one of two easy strategies. "You can simply buy a smaller plate -- and fill that up. Or, using the plates you already have, make sure there's enough space around your food to see the design and color of your dishware," says McCauley.

If that doesn't work, experts say be certain to leave at least a portion of every meal on your plate. "The goal is to get in touch with what it feels like to be 'full' and not 'stuffed.' When you can do that, you'll definitely be eating less," says Heller.

Reviewed on October 13, 2005

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