Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Love Yourself

I tend to associate love with hearts, and when I'm having fun in the kitchen, that means doing things like cutting cherry tomatoes into hearts to fit with the theme of Heart Month. Since February (Heart Month) is almost over, I was asked to come on CTV Morning Live Saskatoon for two segments on heart healthy eating. I think it's a great lead in to our Nutrition Month (March) theme of Simply Cook and Enjoy that encourages people to cook more at home.

In case you missed it this morning, I wanted to share a summary so you can treat your heart well (and love yourself in the process).

Jeremy Dodge and I discussed the importance of diet and food choices when it comes to heart health. Yes, you may be at an increased risk of heart disease based on your age, gender, and genetics, but there are also many controllable/modifiable risk factors including what you eat, your activity level, if you smoke, your stress level, your alcohol intake, and your weight. A heart healthy diet (or lifestyle or eating pattern) may be focused on reducing cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, weight loss, or disease prevention. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in both men and women, but you can reduce your risk with lifestyle changes. I say this knowing that it may seem easy to take medication and hard to change your eating habits, but I for one prefer to focus on the food and activity to reduce my risk.
My props on the set of CTV Morning Live Saskatoon

Many different ways of eating (vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, DASH, and Paleo for example) have been shown to reduce heart disease risk. The similarity between these lifestyles is a focus on whole foods and lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and plant based fats (like avocado and olive oil). Depending on the variation a person chooses to follow, they may include whole grains and/or fish as well. This means that they're including naturally occurring sugars, omega-3s, fibre, and a variety of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

In the past, most people have associated a heart healthy diet with a low fat diet. Unfortunately this led many to over-consume refined and added sugars/carbohydrates which didn't have the effect(s) they were looking for. Twizzlers are low fat, does that mean that they're healthy? We have to remember to consider the source of fat/sugar, read labels and ingredient lists, and eat fresh, whole foods. Even if you aren't concerned about your heart health, a plan/lifestyle focused on vegetables, fruit, and fewer processed foods will be beneficial for your overall wellness.

Salt also comes to mind for many people when they hear about high blood pressure. Reducing the salt in your plan doesn't mean that your food will be tasteless, it means that you get to experiment with herbs, spices, citrus, garlic, onions, ginger, etc. in the kitchen. Not only do these add flavour, but they also have positive benefits which may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol while providing antioxidants to reduce cellular damage (which can lead to plaque formation and reduced blood flow). If you follow the idea above and eat more whole/fresh foods you're also going to be reducing your salt intake. If you're cooking more at home, using healthy cooking methods (baking, poaching, broiling, steaming, roasting), and asking questions when you eat out, you're also more likely to reduce your salt intake and thus reduce your risk.

Remember that no one food is the cause or cure (correlation doesn't mean causation), and thus you should look at the big picture and use the above recommendations as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a variety of foods.

I also wanted to note that the Nutrigenomix test that I offer has a few nutrients that are related to cardiovascular disease risk. You'll be able to know if you have a typical or elevated risk after your saliva sample is evaluated - contact me for more information.

Happy Day, Healthy Heart,
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching