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Wellness wise

Helping Loved Ones with Heart Disease Eat Right

A heart healthy diet is one of the most important  considerations for a person with heart disease. Proper nutrition is essential to managing the symptoms of heart disease and preventing further complications. Not only can proper diet help slow the artery-clogging process, but when combined with careful lifestyle modification, it may even stop or reverse the narrowing of arteries.

For caregivers and their loved ones with heart disease, adopting a heart-healthy diet can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce body weight. While most dietary plans detail what CAN'T be eaten, the most powerful nutrition strategy helps people with heart disease focus on what they CAN eat. In fact, heart disease research has shown that adding heart-saving foods is just as important as cutting back on others.

As a caregiver, here are some strategies to help you plan meals for someone with heart disease:

  1. Serve more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. These foods may be one of the most powerful strategies in fighting heart disease.
  2. Choose fat calories wisely. Keep these goals in mind:
    1. Limit total fat grams.
    2. Serve a bare minimum of saturated fats and trans-fatty fats (for example, fats found in butter, salad dressing, sweets and desserts).
    3. When you use added fat, use fats high in monounsaturated fat (for example, fats found in olive and peanut oil) or polyunsaturated fat (such as fats found in soybean, corn, and sunflower oil).
  3. Serve a variety -- and just the right amount -- of protein foods. Commonly eaten protein foods (meat, dairy products) are among the main causes of heart disease. Reduce this nutritional risk factor by balancing lean animal, fish, and vegetable sources of protein.
  4. Limit cholesterol consumption. Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in high-risk people. Limiting dietary cholesterol has an added bonus--you'll also cut down on saturated fat, as cholesterol and saturated fat are usually found in the same foods. Give your loved one energy by serving complex carbohydrates (such as whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, and whole-grain breads) and limit simple carbohydrates (such as regular soft drinks, sugar, and sweets).
  5. Feed your loved one regularly. Skipping meals often leads to overeating. By serving five to six mini-meals, you can help someone with heart disease control blood sugars, burn fat calories more efficiently, and regulate cholesterol levels.

Other Heart Disease and Diet Tips

An excellent motto to follow is: dietary enhancement, not deprivation. When people enjoy what they eat, they feel more positive about life, which helps them feel better.

How Much Is In a Serving?

When trying to coordinate an eating plan that's good for the heart, it may help to know how much of a certain kind of food is considered a "serving." The following table offers some examples.




The size of

1 cup cooked rice or pasta

2 starch

tennis ball

1 slice bread

1 starch

compact disc case

1 cup raw vegetables or fruit

1 fruit or vegetable


1/2 cup cooked vegetables or fruit

1 fruit or vegetable

cupcake wrapper full or size of ice cream scoop

1 ounce cheese

1 high-fat protein

pair of dice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 fat**

half dollar

3 ounces cooked meat

1 protein

deck of cards 

3 ounces tofu

1 protein

deck of cards 

** Remember to count fat servings that may be added to food while cooking (oil for sautéing, butter, or shortening for baking)

SOURCES: Wendy C. Fries WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on 12/7/2007 2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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