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Dietitians Dish: Right diet best start to healthy heart

Feb. 22, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 21, 2011 at 8:22 p.m.

Katherine Klingle

By Katherine Klingle

Do you have a medicine cabinet full of vitamin supplements? Knowing which supplements may be beneficial and which may be harmful is important if you have heart disease.

Registered dietitians always recommend getting adequate nutrition through a varied diet. Coincidentally, so does the American Heart Association. A diet that includes a wealth of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean protein and healthy oils is the best start to a healthy heart. No vitamin supplement will reverse the damage from poor diet choices.

The vitamin shelves in local stores beckon. Knowing which vitamins to consider taking for your heart should be science and evidence-based, not profit driven.

Evidence-based information is just that - information that has been derived from scientifically-controlled studies rather than unfounded testimony. The American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Associations are unbiased resources for evidence-based information. Some of AHA and ADA guidelines regarding vitamin usage and heart disease are:

Vitamin E: AHA indicates that studies do not show a reduction in heart disease as previously thought by taking vitamin E supplements. Nuts, seeds and vegetable oils are example of good food sources to meet your needs.

Vitamin C and beta carotene: ADA indicates that vitamin C and beta carotene supplements have shown no protection from cardiovascular disease events. Some food sources of vitamin C are citrus, broccoli, bell peppers and strawberries. Try carrots, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes for beta carotene.

Folate, B6 and B12: Supplements may not be beneficial. They are not specifically recommended at this time. Good food sources of folate are enriched breads and cereals, dried beans, spinach and potatoes. Some foods high in vitamin B6 are enriched breads and cereals, and dark green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin B12 can be found in fish and shellfish, chicken breast, meat and enriched cereal.

CoEnzyme Q10: Research is inconclusive regarding the benefit of its use.

Both ADA and AHA recognize the importance of omega-3 fatty acid intake by recommending consuming 3-4 ounces of fatty fish twice a week, or plant sources (flaxseed, walnut or canola oil). Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore light tuna and lake trout. To find a list of fish that are lowest in contaminants, go to www.edf.org or www.montereybayaquarium.org for a seafood watch pocket guide. If you can't tolerate fish, check with your primary care provider regarding a pharmaceutical grade of fish oil supplements. Dosage depends on your lipid profile. Too much can increase your risk for bleeding and is a perfect example of too much of a good thing causing problems.

Some supplements interact with medications. Incorporating foods into your diet naturally rich in all the above is the best strategy to meet your Daily Recommended Intake (DRI).

Vitamins play a crucial role in health; however, most can be obtained from a well-balanced diet with a few exceptions. Always check with your health care professional before starting any supplement.

Katherine Klingle is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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