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Ten tips for a heart-healthy diet

Posted Feb 06 2010 12:00am - Saint Louis University cardiologist Melda Dolan, M.D. has offered 10 tips for giving your kitchen and diet a heart-healthy makeover.

“Maintaining a heart-healthy diet is easier than you might think, but it does require a life-style change,” Dolan said. “Once you learn how to shop for and cook with fresh ingredients, you’ll see that it’s easy to do.”

According to Dolan, one’s diet plays a major role in the development of heart disease – the No. 1 killer of Americans. Unlike your genes, your diet is something you can control to directly impact your heart health.

Dolan’s 10 tips for a heart-healthy diet:

1. Shop the perimeter of your local grocery store. This is where you will typically find fresh produce, dairy, seafood and meat.

2. Say goodbye to processed foods such as frozen meals and canned goods. These items are often very high in sodium and simple carbohydrates.

3. Use fresh herbs to add flavor to your cooking rather than salt. Fresh basil, mint, rosemary and garlic are among Dolan’s favorites.

4. Replace butter with olive and vegetable oil, which are both healthier and tastier. Instead of serving butter with bread, try olive oil topped with fresh thyme or basil.

5. Quit frying your foods. Baking, broiling and grilling are much healthier options. Dolan also recommends slow cooking to get the best flavors out of vegetables, chicken and fish.

6. Welcome fish and chicken into your diet. While both are low in fat, fish contains omega fatty acids, which are important in lipid management.

7. Limit red meat and pork. They are higher in fat and speed up the atherosclerosis process, or hardening of the arteries, which leads to heart disease.

8. Enjoy fresh fruit for dessert rather than high-calorie options like cake or ice cream.

9. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink per day (12 oz. beer, 4 oz. glass of wine or 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits). Red wine contains heart-healthy flavonoids (polyphenols) and antioxidants, but that does not make it safe to drink in excess, Dolan says. Excessive drinking can lead to alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity and stroke.

10. Watch your serving size. The key is keeping portion sizes small. Dolan suggests “tricking” yourself by replacing big plates with smaller, appetizer-size plates.

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