You've heard the naysayers – cut out fat and cholesterol, don't eat red meat or eggs, stick to salads, pasta and cottage cheese. Are they right? What are the facts?
On average, Canadians have reduced their total fat intake to the recommended level of 30 per cent of energy – or about 65 grams or less per day for a woman.
The availability of lower-fat foods, such as extra lean ground beef, 1% milk and low-fat yogurt and cheeses have also made it possible for women to easily lower their cholesterol intake.
Now the emphasis is on reducing intake of trans fats by cutting back on high-fat processed foods such as cookies and pastries. Excess trans fat does contribute to higher blood-cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease.
The truth about red meat: women need twice as much iron than men
When you cut out red meat, you miss out on one of the best sources of readily absorbed iron. When you don't have enough iron, your heart must work harder to pump oxygen throughout your body. Some symptoms of iron deficiency include:
• shortness of breath
• difficulty concentrating
Lean beef is as low in fat as the white meat of chicken, is an excellent source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, a good source of ready-to-use iron and provides other essential B vitamins.
Cracking the egg-cholesterol connection
According to recent research done at the Harvard School of Public Health, in healthy individuals, there is no link between eating eggs and developing cardiovascular disease. One egg contains approximately:
• 5 grams of fat
• 190 mg cholesterol
• very little saturated fat
• no trans fat
Pasta, salad: How heart healthy are they?
Pasta is a source of complex carbohydrates and many B vitamins, but it is only as low in fat as the sauce you put on it. For a heart-healthy diet, you'll need to be sure a good portion of your carbohydrates are whole grains. Choose whole grain pastas and rice, or add whole grain breads and cereals to your diet.
Lettuce is a great salad base but on its own it doesn't have a lot of nutrients. To make your salads count, add a rainbow of brightly-coloured vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli and spinach. Generally, more colour = more vitamins.
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This article is provided by Quakerheart.ca – an online resource designed to help empower women to take charge of their heart health and inspire heart-healthy living for those around them.