SHELDON—Since February is American Heart Month, Anna Riley felt it was appropriate to discuss a heart healthy diet.
Riley, a dietitian at Sanford Sheldon Medical Center, gave a presentation on Wednesday for Live Healthy Northwest Iowa through Zoom.
Live Healthy Northwest Iowa, an extension of the Live Healthy Iowa program, is a 10-week competition that focuses on being active and weight loss.
“Our goal is to keep our heart feeling young and healthy,” Riley said. “Every moment of every day, it’s in there working for us.”
Riley, a native of Osage, said it’s good to have a diet low in unhealthy fats.
There are three kinds of fats:
• unsaturated fats.
• saturated fats.
• trans fats.
Unsaturated fats lower your low-density lipoproteins, or bad cholesterol while improving your high-density lipoproteins, or good cholesterol. They also are frequently liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are found in foods like avocados, almonds, sunflower seeds and salmon.
Saturated fats raise your bad cholesterol and are found in foods like chocolate, high-fat dairy products and high-fat meats.
“Those would definitely be ones to avoid where the unsaturated fats would be the healthier ones that would definitely be more beneficial for our heart and cholesterol levels,” Riley said.
Trans fats are man made and usually solid at room temperature. They increase your bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol. Trans fats often are found in store-bought cookies or cakes, fried foods, pastries, shortening or stick margarine.
“Trans fat is very bad for our heart,” Riley said.
Riley, who started working at the hospital in 2018, compared the three kinds of fats to a traffic light with trans fats similar to a red light and to avoid if possible. She said saturated fats were a yellow light, and while unavoidable at times, should be limited in a diet. Unsaturated fats are like a green light and the healthiest of fats. Riley said that even with a green light though, there is still a speed limit, so it’s important to watch portion sizes.
“Just because we’re eating a healthy kind of fat, doesn’t mean we can eat all we want,” she said.
When eating a plate of food, Riley said it’s good to have it filled with half fruits and vegetables, a quarter with lean meat and a quarter with whole grains.
“That’s just a good general rule for eating healthy, but with heart health it’s very important too,” she said.
It’s always good to eat foods with fiber too.
“Fiber actually is beneficial because it kind of grabs on to extra cholesterol in our body and helps us to get rid of it without being absorbed,” Riley said. “You’ve probably seen on a box of Cheerios how they talk about how it’s great for lowering cholesterol and that has a lot to do with the fiber. A whole grain cereal like Cheerios, but also the fruits and vegetables that have the high fiber content, are going to be filling and great for weight loss.”
Riley added that during the coronavirus pandemic, diet is an aspect of their lives that people can control.
“Diet is one thing that we can do for our body and our hearts where maybe other things as far as stress and activity have been a little bit more limited,” she said. “Hopefully, people are finding ways to incorporate that activity into their life again or are feeling a little less stressed as we get closer to maybe more of the population having access to a COVID vaccine.”