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The Best Food for your Heart

The Best (And Worst) Foods For Your Heart

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States -- a respectable reason to show your heart some love and attention. To keep your ticker in tip-top shape, add these best foods to your daily health routine -- and kick the worst to the curb.

Best: Nuts
Tree nuts are a superb source of protein and provide nutrients necessary for your heart's health. The nourishing unsaturated fats help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost HDL (good) cholesterol. Furthermore, nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid that makes nitric oxide. This gas relaxes blood vessels and supports blood flow. Still not convinced? Crunch on this sweet statistic: Devoted nut eaters are 25 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who don't eat nuts.

How to enjoy: To satisfy a need for crunch, sprinkle nuts atop a salad. When snacking, try fruit slices dipped in a creamy nut butter or a shot glass-size serving of whole nuts.

Best: Beans
Recent studies have shown that those who consume legumes on a daily basis have a 22 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than those who rarely do. And here’s why: Beans are packed with cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering soluble fiber, and contain heart-smart nutrients such as folate, a vitamin that helps reduce blood homocysteine (a biomarker for heart disease). And let's not forget how easily beans stand in for animal protein, which is often loaded with saturated fat.

How to enjoy: Use hummus as a condiment in potato salads, or get creative by adding garbanzo-bean flour to cake, cookie and muffin batters.

Best: Chocolate
Not that we need another reason to indulge in dark chocolate, but: Cacao contains flavonoids (metabolites that promote healthy blood circulation and supple arteries) and polyphenols (antioxidants that reduce inflammation and risk of atherosclerosis). It's also a good source of magnesium, a mineral essential for normal heart function. Take note, however: All chocolate is not created equal when it comes to nutrition. Be sure to select products that are at least 70 percent cacao.

How to enjoy: For breakfast, add cacao powder to a green smoothie, or end dinner with a one-ounce square of dark chocolate.

Worst: Added Sugars
Because sugar increases blood pressure and triglyceride levels and leads to weight gain, a sugar-laden diet increases one's risk of heart disease. “Also, diets high in sugar usually aren't rich in important nutrients -- like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains -- that help prevent heart disease and keep your heart healthy,” notes upwave reviewer Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD. Sugar-sweetened beverages, cookies, cakes and pastries are obvious no-nos; sneaky sources of sugar can also include yogurt, ready-to-eat cereals and pasta sauces.

How to avoid: Satisfy your sweet tooth the natural way by savoring a fruit-based dessert. Break a soda habit by drinking sparkling water with a shot glass-size splash of fruit juice.

Worst: Saturated Fat
Diets high in saturated fat boost blood cholesterol levels, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis. This artery-clogging fat is present in dairy-based butter, sour cream, mayo, fatty cuts of meat, cocoa butter, palm oil, coconut oil and coconut milk. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting saturated fat so it comprises less than 7 percent of your total daily caloric intake. The key here is moderation: A juicy steak or a dollop of sour cream on a baked potato is fine on occasion.

How to avoid: Instead of butter, spread creamy avocado on whole-grain toast. When making burgers, replace half the ground beef with mushrooms, which provide the same texture and an umami flavor. Meat eaters, why not shift the focus of meals to plant-based proteins or fatty fish, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids?

Note: Yes, trans fat is even worse for you than saturated fat. Luckily, the FDA is working with manufacturers to phase it out of foods.

Worst: Salt
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and one in three Americans currently suffers from hypertension. High-sodium diets may be to blame, since excess sodium holds fluid in the body, thereby placing added burden on the heart. How much sodium is too much? The AHA recommends consuming no more than 1,500 mg per day.

How to avoid: Instead of reaching for the salt shaker, enhance the flavor of your food with spices. Skip processsed and fast foods and consume potassium-rich (aka blood-pressure-lowering) foods such as potatoes, beans and greens instead.

By Jessica Dogert
This article was originally published on upwave.com.

Harvard Medical School

Nuts and Your Health: Cracking Old Myths

Whatever people think of Harvard, few would accuse its heavy-duty scientists of being health nuts. But Harvard researchers may deserve that designation. After all, they have teamed up to show that nuts are actually healthy, especially for men at risk for heart disease.

Harvard Study Results
A 2013 report from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health looked at how eating nuts affects the health of men and women. The study evaluated 42,498 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 76,464 women enrolled in the Nurse's Health Study. None of the participants had known heart disease, cancer or stroke when they enrolled in the studies. Researchers began tracking the subjects in the early 1980s. And they continue to follow many of the volunteers today.
Each subject submitted detailed diet and health information at the start of the study and every 2 to 4 years thereafter. This continued for up to 30 years. According to the results, people who ate nuts fared better than those who did not. And the more nuts eaten, the better the results.
People who ate just one portion of nuts a week enjoyed a 7% lower death rate than people who didn't eat nuts.
Eating nuts 5 or 6 times a week was linked to a spectacular 20% reduction in the death rate.
Nuts appeared to offer protection from a wide range of problems, including heart disease, cancer and lung disease.  And the results held up even after smoking, drinking, body fat, exercise, vitamins and other dietary factors were taken into account.
It's not as nutty as it sounds: Eating nuts promotes good health.
All the subjects in the Harvard study were health care professionals. But do nuts reduce the risk of illness risk in other population groups?
They do.
Scientists have reported that nuts appear to protect people as diverse as Seventh Day Adventists in California, women in Iowa, healthy men and women in the Netherlands, and heart attack survivors in India.

How Nuts Help
Doctors don't know for sure, but they have several theories.
Nuts help reduce blood cholesterol levels, either by replacing other, harmful foods or by lowering cholesterol on their own. 
Nuts are high in fat. But these are "good" fats, which may reduce the risk of abnormal heart pumping rhythms that can sometimes cause sudden cardiac death. According to a Spanish study, nuts improve endothelial function, allowing arteries to widen when tissues need more oxygen.

What's in Nuts?
Nuts pack many nutrients in a small package.
Nuts have no cholesterol. And they contain only tiny amounts of saturated fat. Instead, they have lots of mono- and polyunsaturated fats that resemble the fats in olives and other vegetables that may help protect the heart.
Nuts may also help by providing vitamin E and other antioxidants.
They are also rich in protein, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and other minerals.
Nuts are an excellent source of fiber, which reduces the risk of heart disease.
Before you go nuts, keep in mind that:

  1. Nuts are high in fat, which makes them high in calories. All fats, whether they are harmful saturated fats or healthful unsaturated fats, have 9 calories perSo unless you want to gain weight, don't add nuts to your diet without cutting a similar number of calories. Fortunately, the new Harvard study reported that people who ate nuts regularly actually gained less weight than people who didn't eat nuts.
  2. Many processed nuts that are so handy for snacks are fried in oil and/or laced with salt, which can raise your blood pressure.

Nuts can be part of a balanced, healthful diet. And they can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

What's in a Name?
Peanuts, the most popular nuts of all — are not technically nuts.
Nuts are one-seeded fruits that grow on trees. Peanuts grow in the ground. They are legumes, members of the bean and pea family of plants. Peanuts do have a tough outer shell, like trun nuts do. And they share the nutritional characteristics of nuts.
In fact, the Harvard study found that peanuts were as beneficial as true nuts. But the technical distinction does have one important practical consequence: Most people who are allergic to peanuts can safely eat tree nuts.

__________________
February 19, 2014
By Harvey B. Simon M.D.- Harvard Medical School

Harvey B. Simon, M.D. is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Health Sciences Technology Faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the founding editor of the Harvard Men's Health Watch newsletter and author of six consumer health books, including The Harvard Medical School Guide to Men's Health (Simon and Schuster, 2002) and The No Sweat Exercise Plan, Lose Weight, Get Healthy and Live Longer (McGraw-Hill, 2006). Dr. Simon practices at the Massachusetts General Hospital; he received the London Prize for Excellence in Teaching from Harvard and MIT.

The Daily News: re introduce nuts into your diet

Why you should re-introduce nuts into your daily diet

According to recent research, nuts (both tree nuts and peanuts, which are technically legumes) are a nutritional powerhouse.
In the not so distant past, nuts were often passed over as a healthy choice because they are high in fat and calories, but research is showing us that the healthy fats found in nuts are good for our health and nuts are packed with a variety of nutritional benefits.

Why are nuts healthy?

• Nuts contain unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats, which include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, are thought to help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
• Many nuts contain omega 3 fats. These are fats that are good for your heart and are often found in animal sources, like salmon. Many nuts can be a good plant based source of these fats.
• Nuts are a plant-based protein. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends that we choose more plant-based proteins. Nuts are good sources of plant protein, many sources are relatively inexpensive and they are versatile. Try nuts on yogurt, cereal, fruit and vegetable salads, pasta, in smoothies or enjoy a serving as a fast, easy and portable snack. Try a variety of nut butters on sandwiches, toast, crackers or use as a dip for raw fruit and vegetables.
• Nuts are full of fiber. Fiber helps to keep you full longer and also can help to lower your cholesterol levels.
• Nuts are a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E helps to keep your immune system strong and your eyes and skin healthy.
• Many nuts are a good source of plant sterols. Plant sterols are found in many plants and may help to lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols may be added to foods like margarine.
• You’ll find magnesium in nuts. Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in keeping your blood pressure stable and plays a role in bone health.

Portion size is the key to adding nuts to a healthy diet without gaining weight. One ounce of nuts is a perfect portion to include in your diet. Here are some common serving sizes and calories for nuts: 30 peanuts — 170 calories, 24 almonds — 160 calories, 20 cashews — 170 calories, 47 shelled pistachios — 170 calories, 14 walnut halves — 180 calories and 20 pecan halves — 190 calories.
Your best bet for portion control is to count out the number of nuts in a serving and store the serving in a snack size zip bag. This will help to keep you from overeating nuts and will make nuts a very easy snack to grab when you are on the run. Nuts are portable, don’t need refrigeration and taste good any time of the day or night.
According to UC Davis, nuts stored at room temperature will stay fresh for a few months. Nuts stored in the refrigerator will last longer, about 1 year and for up to 2 years in the freezer. Nuts that have an off flavor are rancid and should be thrown away.
Enjoy nuts again and as part of a healthy diet.

Original Article from The Daily News by Jen Reardon, registered dietitian working with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Eat Smart NY! Program

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