Weight, Nutrition, and Heart Health

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Weight, Nutrition, and Heart Health

How do your eating habits impact your heart health?

Your weight, what you eat, and your exercise habits all have a significant impact on heart health. Losing just 3-5% of body weight can result in significant metabolic improvements, reduced long-term health risks, and better overall quality of life. Therefore, even small changes are worthwhile in improving your overall health and wellness. Weight loss doesn’t have to be "all-or-nothing." Any improvement is significant!

A great place to start is keeping an eye on what you eat. The four terms we always hear in relation to nutrition are fiber, fat, calories, and carbs. How do these all impact heart health? Centra's Medical Bariatrician Dr. Mike Jones and Amy Casagrande, Centra's Bariatric Dietitian, provide some tips for insight.

Fiber is great for heart health because it can bind with bad cholesterol and remove it from the body. Foods high in dietary fiber include whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.  To increase your fiber intake from foods, include more plant-based sources of protein such as beans and peas, choose whole-grains whenever possible and eat a diet rich in non-starchy vegetables and fruits.

Fat often gets a lot of attention in heart-healthy eating plans, but that doesn’t mean you need to eliminate it. Focus on sources of unsaturated fats instead, such as olive and vegetable oil, nuts and seeds, avocados and fatty fish.

While extra calories from any source can be stored as triglycerides, excess calories from sugar and alcohol may have a greater effect on raising triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease. Luckily, the same dietary recommendations that are advised for several other conditions — such as losing weight, being physically active, and limiting refined carbohydrates— can also help lower triglycerides

When choosing carbohydrate-rich foods, focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Limit refined grains and sources of added sugars, such as desserts, baked goods, and sugar-sweetened beverages. And, limit or avoid alcohol.

In addition to a variety of other beneficial nutrients, seafood is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids which can help reduce triglyceride levels. Just 2 servings of seafood per week (about 8 ounces total) will provide the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Next time you plan a trip to the grocery store, add some of these heart-healthy items to your shopping list:

  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Soybeans and tofu
  • Fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned without salt or added sugars)
  • Salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel
  • Whole-grain bread, brown rice, and barley
  • Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts

Interested in more information on nutrition, weight, and health?  Visit our Bariatric Medicine or Surgery pages, or give us a call at 434.200.2500 to start your weight loss journey today!

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