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Follow a heart-healthy diet – Scranton Times

February is American Heart Month. It’s a time set aside to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. Nutrition experts suggest following a heart-healthy diet with the following components:

Limit saturated and trans fats. Eating too much of these types of fats increases your risk of high blood cholesterol, particularly LDL, the bad type. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat to 10 percent of total calories. For trans fats, the guidelines recommend keeping them as low as you possibly can. Read the nutrition facts labels to find out how much saturated and trans fats are contained in an individual packaged food. Also limit your consumption of butter and other fats that are solid at room temperature, as well as animal fat from meat, cheese and dairy products.

Reduce sodium intake. Too much sodium causes the body to retain excess fluid which can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Consume no more than 2,300 milligrams or 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily if you already have high blood pressure.

Increase fiber. People who eat more fiber tend to have a lower risk of heart disease. Increase fiber intake by eating more beans and other legumes, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and choosing whole grains instead of refined. The daily recommendation is to eat 20 to 35 grams.

Here are some tips for eating in a heart-healthy manner from Ohio State University Extension:

Choose fruits and vegetables often. They are naturally low in fat and sodium and tend to be high in fiber. Include a serving of whole fresh fruit at breakfast and lunch and fill half your dinner plate with vegetables.

Eat lean meats and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Limit processed meats such as ham and lunchmeat since they tend to be high in sodium. If you like cheese, choose part-skim or 2 percent fat versions.

Select high fiber cereals. Read the nutrition facts labels and choose cereals with 5 grams or more of fiber per serving.

Limit your pizza consumption. Pizza alone is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the saturated fat and 6 percent of the sodium in the American diet. Make it an occasional treat rather than a staple.

KAREN THOMAS is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.

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