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Nutrition for Coronary Heart Disease

by Katrina Josey
  • Overview

    Coronary heart disease is also called coronary artery disease, or CAD. A person is said to have coronary heart disease when fatty buildup, called plaque, accumulates in the coronary arteries. The body's tissues get blood from arteries, but the heart has its own system of blood vessels. The vessels that take blood only to the heart are called coronary arteries. The plaque that builds up in the coronary arteries comes from fat, cholesterol, and other substances, such as minerals. The cholesterol comes from the food we eat and from our body's natural production of the substance. Althoughwe can't control how much cholesterol our bodies make, we can control how much fat and cholesterol is in the food we eat. Since CAD is the top killer of both men and women in America, it's important to adjust your lifestyle to prevent complications or death from this disease once you have it. Some recommendations related to nutrition that will help prevent heart attack and death in people with coronary heart disease follow.
  • Vitamin C

    According to Mayo Clinic staff, getting the flu increases the chances of having a heart attack in those that already have heart disease. Getting vitamin C in the diet helps the body fight off short-term illnesses like the flu and the common cold. Therefore, in addition to getting a flu shot, people with heart disease should eat a diet rich in vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin C include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and strawberries. Other orange and yellow-colored foods, such as sweet potatoes, are also a rich source of vitamin C.
  • Cholesterol

    Since CAD is directly affected by cholesterol levels, people with CAD should take care to reduce the amount of cholesterol they eat. Foods that are high in cholesterol include shrimp, egg yolks, organ meats (kidney and liver), and butter. Some alternatives to these foods are egg whites, margarine, and imitation shrimp (made from fish). It is also important to note that every food that's high in cholesterol can have very different amounts. For instance, one egg yolk contains over 200 mg. of cholesterol. Just two egg yolks would put one over the daily recommended limit of 300 mg. per day. Contrast that amount with 1 tbsp. of butter, which has about 11 mg. of cholesterol.
  • Saturated (Bad) Fats

    Since fat makes up part of the plaque that builds up in the coronary arteries, you should pay close attention to the amount of fat in your diet. According to the American Heart Association, no more than 30 percent of any person's daily calories should come from fat. But heart disease patients shouldn't be concerned just with fat; rather, they should be concerned with the amount of saturated fat they eat. That is because it's the saturated fat that "sticks" to the arteries. No more than 10 percent of daily calories should come from saturated fat. Many people get confused about unhealthy fats versus healthy ones. A quick test of whether a fat is good or bad for your heart is whether it's liquid or solid at room temperature. Healthy fats (unsaturated) are liquid at room temperature and come mostly from plant sources. Examples include olive and canola oil. Saturated fats come from animal sources, with the exception of coconut oil.
  • Unsaturated (Good) Fats

    Just as bad fats increase the risk of heart attacks, good fats lower the risk of heart attack. Good fats come from fish oils in salmon, tuna, and mackerel. They also come from nuts. Some cereals are fortified with these healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Look for foods with these fats as well as foods that include flax or flax seed. Better yet, you can simply buy ground flax seed and sprinkle it into your smoothies, cereals, and soups to give yourself a dose of heart-healthy fats.
  • Soy Protein

    According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), eating soy protein can lower cholesterol by up to 10 percent. For every 1 percent decrease in cholesterol levels, there is a 2 percent decrease in the risk for heart disease. If you already have CAD, it's still important to include soy protein in your diet to lower your chances of having a heart attack. Because of the versatility of soy foods, it can be consumed in many forms. The FDA cholesterol-lowering label can be found only on soy foods that contain at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving. These foods include soy milk, tofu, miso, and other meat alternative products. However, if you're not ready to try any new soy foods, you can buy soy in powder form, called soy protein isolate. This can be sprinkled into your other foods, like chili, soup, and smoothies. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving.

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