Eat to your health seems like it would be an easy concept to understand, however, many of us have hectic schedules, long work hours and other personal commitments. If your lifestyle demands that you cut corners at mealtime, you can still take advantage of many convenience foods and eat sensibly. You just need to know what to look for on the food labels. Here are some things to watch for to ensure you’re making food choices that are good for your health.
Sodium – Eat to your health
The average person should consume no more than 2,400 milligrams per meal. (It’s especially important to reduce sodium if you have high blood pressure.) Fortunately, many prepared foods are now also available in reduced-sodium varieties. Products marked low sodium, very low sodium or no salt added are your best choices.
Fats – Eat to your health
Fats can be a little confusing, because there are so many different types. And while some can increase your risk of heart disease, others can actually lower it.
Saturated Fats Flat out avoid these, because they raise LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. They’re found in fatty cuts of meat, butter, lard, cream, whole milk and tropical oils (coconut, palm and palm kernel).
Monounsaturated Fats When substituted for saturated and Trans fats, these fats actually help lower LDL. They’re found in olive and canola oils, most nuts, peanut butter, avocados and olives. However, even these types of fasts should be consumed in moderation. < br>
Polyunsaturated Fats When substituted for saturated and Trans fats, these also help lower LDL. You’ll find them in safflower, sunflower, sesame, corn and soybean oils, soybeans, sesame seeds, walnuts, ground flaxseed and fish.
Omega-3 Fats These fats are essential, and have been shown to lower triglycerides at high doses and prevent arrhythmias. Omega-3 fats appear to be particularly beneficial to heart attach patients. They are found in soybeans, walnuts, ground flaxseed and fish.
Trans Fats Not good. Research shows that Trans fats can increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, elevate triglycerides and cause “stickier” platelets, which can lead to clogged arteries. Trans fats are found in such foods such as margarine, vegetable shortening, fast food French fries, and most snack foods and baked goods. The good news is that many food manufacturers are beginning to remove Trans fats from their products. Look for packages that say “no trans fats.”
Fiber – Eat to your health
Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate that your body can neither digest nor absorb. Even though it’s not considered a nutrient, fiber is still very important to good health. Dietary fiber comes in two forms: insoluble and soluble. Of the two, soluble fiber provides the greater heart benefits, because it helps to reduce cholesterol absorption and decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Fiber-rich foods can also help you manage your weight. They’re usually low in calories and fat, they bulk up your stomach and they make you feel fuller after a meal. And because they generally take longer to chew, they help to slow you down so you don’t eat as much.
While health professionals recommend we consume 25 grams of fiber a day, the average person gets only about 14 grams. You can achieve the recommended goal by eating the following foods each day:
- Four or more servings of vegetables
- Three or more servings of fruit
- At least three servings of whole grains
- Beans, lentils, nuts or seeds
Good Sources of Soluble Fiber
- Oats and oat-based cereals
- Dried beans and peas
- Fruits, such as apples, pears, prunes and citrus fruits
- Vegetables, including cabbage, sweet potatoes and carrots
Need a pick-me-up between meals? Here are some healthy options that are just 200 calories or less.
- 8 oz. nonfat yogurt
- ½ cup nonfat pudding
- 1 oz. part-skim mozarella string cheese and 1 medium apple
- 4 oz. nonfat or 1% fat cottage cheese on 1 slice whole grain bread
- 8 oz. reduced sodium vegetable juice and 3 to 6 whole wheat crackers
- 1 cup raw veggies dipped in ¼ cup hummus
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter on 2 celery stalks, topped with 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1 medium serving of most fruits
- ¼ cup raw or dry-roasted nuts
- 3 peanut butter-filled wheat crackers with 6 oz. skim milk
- 3 cups air-popped popcorn
- 1 packet plain oatmeal with 8 oz. skim milk
- 1 crunchy granola or chewy trail mix bar
- 2 oz. canned tuna or chicken on 3 to 6 whole grain crackers
- 2 oz. smoked salmon with 1 tablespoon nonfat cream cheese on half of a small whole wheat bagel
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