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Extension Agent: February is American Heart Month

By By Brenda Phipps
Jan. 31, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 30, 2012 at 7:31 p.m.


Did you know that February is American Heart Month?

The best way to help prevent heart disease is with a healthy diet. Instead of lingering on past mistakes, focus on creating a consistent pattern of healthier choices. Consider the following recommendations:•  Choose lean cuts of meat that do not have a marbled appearance and bake, broil or grill them to cut down on added fats. Remove skin from poultry before cooking, and choose white meat over dark meat. The leanest cuts of beef are sirloin steak, eye of round roast and top round steak.

•  Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Even sliced and shredded cheeses now have low-fat versions that cost and taste about the same as the higher fat cheeses.

•  Read Nutrition Facts labels to compare brands, and choose products with less saturated fat and trans fat. Look at the "Percent Daily Value" column and choose foods that have 5 percent or less daily value next to Saturated Fat and Trans Fat.

•  Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars. Instead of stocking your fridge with sugar-sweetened beverages, like sodas, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the refrigerator. Make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, lime, watermelon or cucumber, which add lots of flavor, but few calories. Read ingredient lists on foods; if you see dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose or syrup listed, you know that food has added sugars.

•  Select foods with less salt. Sodium raises blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. More than 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed foods (foods that are pre-made/ready-to-eat). On the Nutrition Facts label, the "Percent Daily Value" for sodium should be less than 20 percent.

•  Control portion sizes by using MyPlate as a guide and by using smaller plates. Research has shown that we feel fuller when our plates look fuller, so filling a smaller plate will trick your mind and help control your portion sizes.

•  Try low-fat spreads instead of butter. Most margarine spreads contain less saturated fat than butter. Look for a spread that is low in saturated fat, and, when possible, find one that says zero grams of trans fat. When looking at the "Percent Daily Value" for saturated fat and cholesterol, remember that 5 percent is low and 20 percent is high. If you find two products that seem similar in nutritional value, try them both and choose the one that tastes better.

Sources: cdc.gov; ChooseMyPlate.gov; txbeef.org; lancaster.unl.edu/food/ft-jan-10.shtml

Brenda Phipps is a Victoria County extension assistant.

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