Monthly Archives: September 2016
I’ve heard I should stay away from trans fat because I have high cholesterol. What foods have trans fat? And are they really that bad?
A: What you’ve heard is true—trans fat really are that bad. Eliminating as many sources of trans fat from your diet as possible is an important part of taking care of your heart and health. In fact, everyone should avoid them, even people who don’t have high cholesterol. Here’s what you need to know about these fats and why they’re so unhealthy for your heart:
Trans fat are created when a liquid fat is chemically altered to become a solid. Some food companies and restaurants use trans fat in products because they offer an inexpensive way to add flavor and texture to foods and increase shelf life. You’ll most often find man-made trans fat in baked goods, including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, crackers; certain stick margarines (all Smart Balance® products are trans-fat free); and shortening. They can also be present in fried foods like French fries and fried chicken.
Research shows that consuming trans fat has a double-whammy effect on your heart health by raising your LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, trans fat can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, and possibly type-2 diabetes.
You can spot trans fat in foods by religiously reading labels on packaged foods. It’s especially important to carefully scan the labels of the foods listed above, but keep in mind that many unsuspecting foods, like breakfast cereal and coffee creamer, can also contain trans fat. First check the nutrition facts panel; the FDA now requires all food manufactures to list trans fat. But even if the trans fat line reads “0 grams”, the food’s not necessarily in the clear yet. There’s a loophole in labeling that allows manufacturers to label a product as having 0 grams of trans fat as long as it has fewer than 0.5 grams per serving. It seems like a small amount, but considering that the American Heart Association recommends getting less than 2 grams of trans fat a day, you could easily surpass it. If you eat two or three servings of a product with .49 grams of trans fat, you’re almost at that daily limit. Plus, there are some naturally occurring trans fat in foods like meat and dairy, and while experts are not sure if they have the same negative impact on your cholesterol, they do count towards the total daily intake. So along with looking at the Nutrition Facts, always remember to check the ingredients list. If you see “partially hydrogenated oil,” the product contains trans fat—and is worth reconsidering.
It’s no news that smoking is the number one preventable cause of heart disease. And everyone knows quitting is crucial. You even know what to do. Thing is, it’s hard. Really hard. And it’s all too easy to give up. That’s why we asked former smokers to share how they quit for good—so you might, too. Good luck!
– “Break the day into small increments,” suggests Susan G., from Washington, DC. “It feels more manageable and helps build momentum.” So instead of focusing on how you have to go cigarette-free the entire day, focus on getting through the next three hours, or even hour by hour. At the end of the day, give yourself a little reward.
– “I smoked a pack a day for 10 years. Then I quit cold turkey the day the pregnancy test came up positive,” says Oakland, California, resident Leah H., who says she was too sick to miss it. “That was 16 years ago.” No one’s suggesting you get pregnant for the sole purpose of quitting (please!). The takeaway here is this: Sometimes focusing on how the other people in your life will benefit—along with you, of course—can provide that extra motivation.
– Do an inventory of your life and decide if smoking will allow you to continue the things you enjoy, says L. P., a teacher from Berkeley, California, who’d been an on-and-off smoker for years. She enjoyed hiking and spending time outdoors with family, and when smoking left her breathless, she says, “It needed to go.”
– “Bury yourself in facts about how smoking can kill you,” says Peter S., a sound engineer who quit 10 years ago with the help of a month-long smoking cessation program in San Francisco. The class provided the risks in an unadorned, straightforward fashion, and every time he felt like reaching for a smoke, he ran down the list. “It was a scared-straight tactic.” (One fact that felled him was this message from a doctor: “By the time we detect lung cancer, it’s usually too late.”)
– “I didn’t use patches or gum. Instead, I just swam or biked when I felt the urge to smoke,” says journalist M. Shapiro, who found it most challenging attending parties where others were smoking. “But I just decided to quit and stuck to it.”
While many factors affect heart disease, the FDA recommends eating foods that are high in fiber and low in fat, sodium and cholesterol to reduce the risk of this disease. Make these 10 foods a regular part of your diet to keep your ticker happily ticking:
1. Almonds. These nuts have heart-healthy nutrients and unsaturated fatty acids. Studies show that almonds may help improve the lining of the arteries and maintain cholesterol levels already within normal limits. Stick to a small handful, though. Almonds are calorie-dense and can lead to weight gain if you overdo it. If almonds aren’t your thing, you can get similar benefits from Smart Balance® Rich Roast Peanut Butters, which contain excellent levels of ALA Omega-3.
2. Avocado. This fruit has plenty of healthy fats. Avocados have monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber and folic acid, and avocados contribute nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and nutrients to the diet. Avocados are high in calories, though, so keep an eye on your portions here as well.
3. Blueberries. Blueberries have an abundance of plant chemicals called anthocyanins that can help maintain a healthy heart. Blueberries are a good source of fiber and rank as one of the best sources of antioxidants.
4. Broccoli. This cruciferous veggie helps support a healthy cardiovascular system. Rich in vitamins C and K, broccoli is also one of the green vegetables that also help maintain a healthy immune system.
5. Cantaloupe. Cantaloupe is a good source of potassium, which helps regulate the body’s hydration level and is essential to proper functioning of the cells and organs. What’s more, potassium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure already within normal limits.
6. Carrots. Known as a great source of beta-carotene, carrots are also a source of fiber. Raw carrots have Potassium, Vitamin K, Manganese and Vitamin C, giving the body a healthy dose of nutrition.
7. Ground flaxseed. Freshly ground flaxseed is a wonderful plant source of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that can only be obtained from food, as the body cannot produce them on its own. Omega-3 fatty acids work to support normal blood clotting, and they help build cell membranes in the brain. Many Smart Balance® products contain ALA Omega-3, including our buttery spreads, cooking oils, peanut butters and mayo.
8. Oatmeal. A bowl of oatmeal goes a long way in helping maintain cholesterol levels already within normal limits, which in turn helps support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. A neutral base, oats can be healthied-up even more by tossing in fruit or nuts.
9. Brown rice. When brown rice is stripped and polished to produce “white rice,” many of its nutrients are stripped away in the process. Brown rice is only missing its outermost layer and is a more nutritious option than white rice. High in manganese, brown rice provides cell protection, and the bran oil in the grain works to maintain cholesterol and blood pressure levels already within normal limits.
10. Salmon. This cold-water fish is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids around, those wonder fats that help maintain blood pressure levels already within normal limits. Eat at least two servings a week and you’re covered. If you can, opt for wild salmon over farmed, as they typically have fewer contaminants, including PCBs.
You already know that living an active life is critical for a healthy heart. In fact, it lowers your heart disease risk from head to toe. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of regular cardio. The American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (the equivalent of a brisk walk) five days of each week—or vigorous aerobic activity (jogging, for instance) for at least 20 minutes on three days. Even better, you can meet that 30-minute goal by breaking up your activity into 10-minute bouts. Rev up your activity level with the following 10-minute exercise suggestions from Larysa DiDio, a personal trainer and owner of PFX Gym in Pleasantville, New York. They all count toward your daily goal, and you’ll get a calorie-burning boost as well:
– Dance to your favorite songs (54 calories)
– Go for a walk with a friend or your spouse after dinner (38 calories)
– Play a game of of tag with your kids or grandkids (46 calories)
– Challenge your spouse to a game of badminton (52 calories)
– Work in the garden with a shovel (46 calories)
– Sit on a physioball instead of a chair when working at your computer (28 calories)
– Walk your dog (32 calories)
– Push your child or grandchild in a stroller (28 calories)
– Jump on a mini trampoline (such as the Bosu) in front of the TV (40 calories)