If you want to give your family's daily diet a "heart health makeover," start with your kitchen. It stands to reason that how we fill our kitchen -- in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer -- sets the pattern for what we eat.
If you stock your kitchen with nutritious but flavorful whole foods, you and your family are more likely to eat a heart-smart diet and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
At the risk of sounding like a certain 20-something socialite, High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is hot! Advances in research have brought more attention to the blood lipid (or fat) we often call "good" cholesterol.
"Good" cholesterol doesn't refer to the cholesterol we eat in food, but rather to the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol circulating in our blood. It's one of the fats measured in the lipid panel blood test doctors perform. And it's the component you want more of, because a higher HDL...
The American Heart Association recommends these tips for a heart-healthy diet:
Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
Choose whole grain and high fiber foods.
Consume fish, especially fatty fish such as mackerel, trout, salmon, or herring, at least twice a week.
Choose lean meats that are prepared in a way to limit intake of saturated fat and trans fat.
Choose fat-free, 1% fat, and low-fat dairy products.
Limit high cholesterol foods with a goal to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day.
Limit sugary drinks and foods with added sugars.
Choose and prepare foods with little or no sodium. Aim to eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
If you drink alcohol, drink no more than two drinks a day if you are a man and one drink a day if you are a woman.
Those suggestions may sound like a lot to think about. But it adds up to one guideline: Eat a diet rich in mostly whole foods.
Think about the most wholesome foods you know: fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, etc. Most of these foods we buy whole, not in a processed package. And while whole foods don't carry a nutrition label like package food does, we all know that whole foods are naturally healthy.
When you do buy packaged foods, be sure to read the label. Look for foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, yet high in fiber.
Here are my top 8 tips to make over your kitchen for a healthy heart!
1. Switch to Heart-Smart Cooking Oils
It makes nutritional sense to choose cooking fats that have the least amount of saturated fat and trans fat, and the most healthful fats (omega-3s and monounsaturated fats). When you do this, you end up with a couple of oils in your kitchen:
Canola oil for most of your cooking. Canola oil is lower in saturated fat compared to many other oils. It is high in monounsaturated fat and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Olive oil when it works in the recipe. Olive oil contains the most monounsaturated fat, very little saturated fat, and some helpful phytochemicals that are found in olives. Olive oil tastes great, so use this oil when you want to impart flavor.
Other oils such as safflower, sunflower, soybean, or flaxseed oil are additional heart-healthy fats that can also be used.