Healthy habits key to heart health for women

Posted by: smilie on 05/31/2006 - 04:42 PM

Eat your fiber

"Only plants have fiber, so anything with fiber, by definition, is packed with other nutrients," Savard said.

That includes all your fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If it's been processed, you're not getting the health benefits, she said.

"Don't just buy brown bread because it says multigrain," she said. "It has to say whole grain because multigrain could mean they stripped out all the fiber and added a little molasses to make it darker."

Know your fat

"Fat is not the enemy," Savard said. "In some ways, it is really critical to our health but that is the olive oil, canola oil, and the vegetable-based liquid oils."

Fish oils and omega 3 fatty acids, meanwhile, are also extremely important to heart health, she added.

"They reduce inflammation, blood clots, risks of sudden death and triglycerides," Savard said. "It's like a best-kept secret."

Meanwhile, the absolute worst thing you can put in your body are trans fats. Trans fats are the type of unhealthy fat created when vegetable oil is hardened into margarine and shortening by adding extra hydrogen molecules.

"I don't even like to call them foods," she said. "You need as little as two grams of trans fats to cause health risks, and as little as five grams of trans fats will increase your risk of heart disease by 25 percent."

Trans-fat labeling became mandatory on packaged foods earlier this year. But don't trust them, Savard warned. That's because food manufacturers can list "zero" when a single serving contains a half gram or less of trans fat.

"Read the fine print because if it says partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, it has trans fat," she said. "And chances are they put it as close to the limit as possible."

Get moving

"Exercise, by far and away, reduces visceral fat even more than diet," Savard said.

You don't need to join a gym or an exercise class. Simply walking and finding little ways to add exercise into daily life can be effective.

"Incorporating exercise into your life is going to have more staying power than going to the gym," she said.

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