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Food for The Heart: August 14, 2012

Could you put together a heart healthy diet? It’s not as hard as people think. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in this country but simple diet changes can lower your risk.

What have you done for your heart lately? Experts looked at what we eat and found a significant correlation to our cardiac health. That’s a party pooper for Sandy Kerr.

“I mean I want to try everything. I want to taste everything, I don’t want to pass up desserts either,” says Kerr.

A new study reveals men and women who had a high intake of fish, fruits and vegetables and polyunsaturated fat were 23 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. The American Heart Association breaks it down with the ‘food plate’.

“With their new plate recommendations, half of the plate should actually be filled with fruits and vegetables,” says Lee Memorial Health System cardiologist Dr. Brian Taschner.

A plant-based diet offers more benefits, slowing down cardiovascular disease and in some cases reversing its effects. Even within those categories, some choices are better than others.

“A quarter of the plate should be filled with grains but one of the things that contributes to belly fat are a lot of the refined grains: white rice, pasta, white potatoes, So they encourage whole grains,” says Dr. Taschner.

It’s all about being choosey. Picking brown rice and pasta over white. Sweet potatoes have less impact on blood sugar than a baked potato. And all fats aren’t created equal either.

“Patients should really focus on the good fats - the olive oils, fatty fish; these actually have been found to have beneficial health affects,” says Dr. Taschner.

If you eat animal-based protein, keep it lean and limit portions to around three ounces. These heart healthy guidelines discourage the development of artery-clogging plaque.

“I think the problem is a lot of patients don’t stick to them,” says Dr. Taschner.

It may be hard to swallow, but what’s good for your heart is good for your health.

“I try and be pretty good, otherwise I mean at my age, I’d be out of here,” says Kerr.