February 5, 1999 | By: Ellen Brightwell

Being sweet to your heart is as easy as one, two, three.

One. Limit the amount of total fat (saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) in your daily diet. Pay particular attention to the amount of saturated fat because it increases the level of blood cholesterol, a major risk factor in coronary heart disease. Try to replace some saturated fat with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats.

Two. Know your fibers. Some foods contain soluble fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Others contain insoluble fiber that also is an important part of the diet because it promotes good bowel function and helps the body in other ways.

Three. Increase your intake of heart-healthy vitamins by eating a variety of foods, especially fruits, vegetables and grain products. Folic acid, a B vitamin, and vitamins C, E and beta carotene can help prevent coronary heart disease.

Read food product labels to track your intake of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. This also will help you consume heart-healthy amounts of soluble fiber and the vitamins that help prevent heart disease.

These heart-healthy tips are from Janet Tietyen and Darlene Forester, Extension food and nutrition specialists in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

* Fat contains twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. This concentrated source of calories can contribute to excessive weight gain, which is a risk factor for heart

disease and many other health problems.

* Limit total fat intake to 30 percent of your daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be no more than 67 grams of fat a day. Many fats come from meats, fried foods, some dairy products and added ingredients like mayonnaise and salad dressings.

* Saturated fat should comprise no more than 10 percent of your calories. Someone on a daily 2,000 calorie diet should consume no more than 22 grams of saturated fat a day. Less saturated fat is even more heart-healthy.

(Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They generally come from animal-based foods and some vegetable oils, especially coconut and palm kernel.)

* Include more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as part of your total fat intake. Peanut, soy and olive oils are good sources of monounsaturated fat, while safflower, sunflower and corn oils are good sources of polyunsaturated fat.

In addition, some types of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat. Fish highest in these are some types of salmon, lake trout, Atlantic mackerel and halibut.

It could be healthy to add fish to your diet up to three times a week.

* To increase the soluble fiber in your diet, eat beans at least twice a week. Pinto, great northern, garbanzo (chick peas) and black beans are good sources of soluble fiber that help lower blood cholesterol levels.

* Make oats and oat bran a big part of your diet. Try them as hot cereal, added to muffins or pancakes, and even in cookies.

* Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits -- at least five servings a day to provide some soluble fiber and many other nutrients to keep you heart healthy.

*Folic acid, a B vitamin, can help prevent heart disease by protecting blood vessels from

damage caused by homocysteine, a product formed from protein metabolism in the body. The name, "folic acid," is derived from "foliage" because this vitamin is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens and romaine lettuce. Other sources are legumes (pinto beans and black-eyed peas) and citrus fruits like oranges.

Folic acid is added to most grain products such as bread, flour, cornmeal, pasta and cereals.

* Research indicates that some other vitamins, notably C, E, and beta carotene, produce antioxidants that help prevent an oxidation process that contributes to heart disease. Vegetables and fruits are the primary food sources of vitamin C and beta carotene. Unsaturated vegetable oils and milk are especially high in vitamin E.

Contact: 

Writer: Ellen Brightwell
(606) 257-1376

Sources: Darlene Forester
Janet Tietyen
(606) 257-1812