Eating Your Way To A Better You

Local Dietician Offers Menu Advice For Nutritious Meals

When people resolve to get into better shape, the first thing that many of them consider is what kind of workout regimen they should follow. They often spend countless hours analyzing gyms, trainers and exercise types to determine the best fit for their individual wellness goals.

Unfortunately, many aspiring workout junkies fail to consider what is perhaps the most important fitness element – nutrition.

“A healthy diet is important to the vitality of your cardiovascular system,” says TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center Clinical Nutrition Manager Jennifer Stephens, MS, RD, LDN. “Lifestyle interventions, including a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, can help prevent heart attack and stroke, especially in those who have been diagnosed with heart disease.”

Given the variety of diets and food choices available, selecting the right nutrition course can appear daunting. However, the process is not as difficult as seems.

“It’s okay to start with small dietary changes, as they add up to big changes over time,” says Jennifer. “Following a few simple food guidelines into your daily routine can make a world of difference.”

 To help our readers get the 411 on nutrition, Hendersonville Lifestyle asked Jennifer for her advice foods to enjoy, limit and to avoid.

What food sources that we should enjoy for good nutrition?

Loading your plate with low-calorie fruits and veggies leaves less room for higher calorie foods that promote weight gain. Excess body weight has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, making this a heart-smart move.

Hearty whole grains like wheat, brown or wild rice, quinoa and oats boast several benefits. For one, grains are filling, which may help sate desires for between-meal snacking. Whole grains are also rich in dietary fiber, which can help keep cholesterol levels in check.

Some animal proteins, like ground beef, pork, duck and lamb, are high in saturated fats, which can increase levels of artery-clogging cholesterol. Instead of these meats, choose lean sources of protein, like chicken or turkey breast and beef with 10% fat or less.

Fatty fishes, like salmon and tuna, are a heart-conscious protein choice. Government dietary guidelines recommend men and women consume 8+ ounces of seafood each week. Seafood is low in saturated fats but high in nutrients like protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Legumes, like beans, lentils and peanuts, contain several heart-healthy nutrients: protein, unsaturated fats and fiber. Protein and fiber can help keep you full and prevent overeating at your next meal.

What food sources that we should limit for good nutrition?

Caffeine, found in coffee, tea and chocolate, is a stimulant consumed by an estimated 90% of adults around the world. Some research suggests coffee is protective against Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease and heart disease, but the jury is still out. People with heart conditions should limit caffeine intake.

What food sources that we should avoid for a healthy diet?

Added sugars, found in soda, juice and bakery treats, add unnecessary calories. A study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine suggests excess sugar can hurt your heart, even if you're not overweight.

Saturated fats are abundant in foods like processed meats, full-fat dairy, French fries, red meat and packaged foods like. Diets rich in these fats can mess with the balance of cholesterol in your blood – lowering the protective kind (HDL) and bumping up the harmful type (LDL).

Sodium is a mineral needed for proper nerve and muscle function. However, too much salt can increase blood pressure, a main contributor to heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day with a target of 1,500 mg.

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