Stop calorie counting, start promoting nutrition for heart health

By: Bel Marra Health | Healthy Eating | Friday, August 28, 2015 - 04:00 PM

Stop calorie counting, start promoting nutrition for heart health, experts sayA popular method for dieting is to count calories. Recommended daily calories for a sedentary senior male is around 2,000 and 1,600 for females. Of course, this would increase if a person is active. Counting calories seems like a universal way to lose or maintain weight, but it’s important to keep in mind every person is different – inside and out – so what may work for one person may not necessarily be effective for another.

Research is now suggesting that we move away from this popular diet trend and instead opt to promote nutritional value of food. This way of eating has shown to be more effective in reducing illness and cutting down on obesity.

The findings were published online in Open Heart, where researchers explored published evidence to uncover the best and most efficient way to live a healthy life. What they concluded is that not smoking and making easy dietary changes are enough to boost health.

One example they drew upon is boosting intake of omega-3 fatty acids; these can be found in olive oil, nuts and fish. Omega-3 has been linked to a reduction in death from causes like cardiovascular disease.

For far too long we’ve been focusing on calories and not nutrition, so we ended up making the wrong choices. For example, a can of soda may only have 150 calories while a handful of nuts contains 500 calories, so in theory fewer calories should be better, right? Wrong: the soda contains sugar and artificial coloring while the nuts promote heart health and contain essential nutrients which can be used by the body.

Estimates reveal the consumption of nuts could stave off 90,000 deaths associated with cardiovascular disease within America alone.

Poor diet is linked with poor health as much as smoking and alcohol consumption combined. Some tactics to promote healthy eating are to tax soda beverages, make health foods more affordable and tighten controls on junk food.

Benefits of a healthy diet

benefits of a healthy dietThey don’t call it a healthy diet for just any reason – if you eat well you can receive benefits to your overall health. Food can play many roles in our energy levels, cardiovascular health, joint health and basically just about everything else. Food is meant to nourish us and keep us well, so if you eat junk you’ll end up feeling like junk as well.

Here are some benefits of a healthy diet:

  • Improves mental and emotional health
  • Helps receive essential vitamins and nutrients which your body requires to perform its many functions
  • Promotes healthy body weight
  • Helps protect the body from contracting illness and creates a stronger immune system
  • Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol
  • Promotes energy
  • It helps reduce stress
  • It helps you age better
  • Extends life span

Recommended daily amounts of healthy food

The key to a healthy diet is balance, so even if you’re enjoying carrots and hummus, too much of a good thing can add up to negative effects. Here are some guidelines for recommended daily amounts of healthy food.

Fruits and vegetables At least five ½ cup servings
Calcium 1,000 or 1,200 if over 50
Fiber 21g to 38g
Protein 0.8g to 1.5g of high-quality protein per kilogram (2.2lb) of body weight
Saturated fat No more than 16g
Trans fat No more than 2g
Sugar Added sugars under 100 (6 teaspoons) for women and under 150 (9 teaspoons) for men
Sodium No more than 1,500 to 2,300mg (one teaspoon)

Easy tips to eat more fruits and vegetables

Easy tips to eat more fruits and vegetablesIf you’re finding it hard to eat well or to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, use these easy tips and watch your fruit and vegetable intake soar so you can obtain health benefits.

  • Sneak fruits and vegetables into favorite recipes – shred them into meatloaf or blend them into a smoothie
  • If you think fruits and vegetables taste bland on their own, dip them into hummus or a light dressing
  • Many fruits and vegetables can be made into a spread (think jam or hummus) and with added spices their flavors can change to make them more appealing
  • Cook with more vegetables – adding heat changes flavor profile as does adding spices
  • Ask someone for help – maybe you dread eating vegetables because they have to be prepared. Share the preparation and cooking with a partner
  • Consume majority of daily intake of fruits and vegetables in the morning – get a kick start (and then you don’t have to worry about them later on)
  • Maybe there are some fruits and vegetables you don’t like, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there that you can actually love – try a variety of different options
  • Set a goal for your daily intake and pack accordingly – have fruits and vegetables readily available

Top foods for heart health

Although food benefits the whole body, there are some foods in particular which can work to protect the heart. Here are the top foods for heart health.

  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Raspberries
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt
  • Chickpeas
  • Oatmeal
  • Olive oil
  • Dark chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Unsalted almond butter
  • Red grapes

The next time you sit down to enjoy a meal, make sure you’re eating healthy. Balance is key, so even if you want a treat – don’t deprive yourself, everything is okay in moderation. As long as you set out to achieve healthy eating for the majority of your week, sneaking in some dark chocolate or a glass of wine won’t hurt.

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