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Build a Healthy Meal Template

Build your meals around nutrient-rich foods to make Mediterranean style meals focusing on:

Mostly plant foods, lean protein such as seafood or occasionally lean poultry, beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, mono fat.

Why? 1. Vegetables, fruits, seafood, lean poultry and whole grains have a low caloric densityCalorie density, also known as calories per pound, is how much energy, i.e. calories, is provided per unit measure of food. Choosing foods with a low calorie density can help with weight loss. 2. These foods are nutrient dense.

Helpful Resource 

This is my favorite book containing a collection of quick to make grain bowls, stews and risottos, that will help you create meals using my build a meal template. The author showcases recipes for vegetarian and vegan meals as well as heartier ones with meat and seafood.

Vegetables    ½ your plate

Salad greens or vegetable salads

Roasted asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper strips, mushrooms, etc.

Sautéed or stir fried mixed vegetables, kale, sugar snap peas

Raw vegetables

Broth based vegetable soup

Lean Protein     ¼ of your plate

Shrimp, Salmon, Crab, Fish, Chicken or Turkey Breast, Egg Whites, Tofu and some tofu products, quinoa, Reduced Fat Cottage Cheese, Low Fat Greek Yogurt, Skim Milk

Healthy Carbs    ¼ of your plate

Whole grain products: cereal, bread, tortillas, English muffins, pasta, crackers

Whole grains such as: brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro

Sweet potato or potato

Beans, peas, lentils, corn or green beans

Fruit

Products Spotlight:    *Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice, precooked and microwavable   *Barilla Whole Grain Pasta    *Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Crispbread      *Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley

Healthy Fat  Small Amounts 

Olive oil, olives, olive tapenade, canola oil

Avocado cream (see my blog)

Pesto, Costco’s Kirkland

Avocado

Walnuts or almonds

Nuts and seeds

Light salad dressing

Flavor Boosters  Small amounts of the ones that are calorically dense

Rubs (Spike, El Gaucho, Salish Lodge, Rub with Love), Herbs and Spices, Ceylon Cinnamon, see here more Ceylon Cinnamon info, Turmeric, Salsa, Lemon, Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, Sirracha, Chipotles in Adobo, Chili Sauce, mustard, Brummel and Brown Spread, vinegars, Miso, avocado cream (see my blog), Reduced fat sharp cheddar, feta, goat cheese, reduced fat sour cream, dried fruits, Stevia and erythritol. 

Foods to avoid: saturated fat, food colors, red meat, processed meat, deep fried foods, junky gluten-free products, agave (higher in fructose than other sugars), fast food, highly processed food, added sugar, refined grains like white flour, industrial vegetable oils, trans fats, fruit juice, alcohol, barbecued foods, high heat cooked food.

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Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Having a heart attack increases the probability of having another because coronary artery disease can progress over time. Certain interventions or treatments such as angioplasty, artherectomy and bypass surgery decrease the probability by improving the blood supply but do not cure the disease. In order to attempt to slow down this process, it is very important to reduce risk factors associated with the development and progression of coronary artery disease.

Extensive studies have identified certain characteristics or risk factors, which have been demonstrated to increase the risk of developing heart disease. These risk factors can be grouped into two classifications: 1) major risk factors and 2) contributing risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance of developing heart disease.

MAJOR RISK FACTORS Major risk factors are those factors that medical research has shown to be definitely associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Can be changed or modified:

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, cigars
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated blood cholesterol (greater than 200mg/dl), high LDL and low HDL
  • Lack of regular exercise

CONTRIBUTING RISK FACTORS

Contributing risk factors are those associated with increased risk of heart disease, but their significance and prevalence have not been directly determined.

Cannot be changed or modified:

  • Male gender
  • Heredity (inherited traits)
  • Increasing age (greater than 65 years old)

Can be changed or modified:

  • Obesity (greater than 25 -30% of ideal body weight)
  • Diabetes
  • Stress

SMOKING (Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes, cigars and second-hand smoke)

Why is Smoking Dangerous?

  • A smoker’s risk of having a heart attack is more than twice that of a nonsmoker.
  • Nicotine increases oxygen demand by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Carbon monoxide from the smoke decreases the oxygen supply by taking the place of oxygen in the blood. One cigarette increases the carbon monoxide level for about 4 hours making it difficult for the heart muscle to get enough oxygen.
  • The heart has to beat faster and harder to pump more blood to deliver the same amount of oxygen.
  • Smoke damages the inner lining of the artery walls, causing small abrasions or rough spots to develop on the artery wall. This rough surface attracts cholesterol resulting in a buildup called plaque. This leads to a narrowing of the artery which decreases blood flow.
  • Smoke may trigger coronary artery spasms, which can cause the vessel to constrict and decrease blood supply to the heart muscle.
  • HDL levels, the good cholesterol, can decrease.
  • The possibility of having irregular heart beats increases.

What Can be Expected After Quitting?

The beneficial effects are apparent almost at once, regardless of the number of years or packs/day smoked.

  • Heart rate and blood pressure will be lower.
  • The heart muscle receives more oxygen.
  • The risk of having another heart attack is reduced to almost that of a non-smoker within six months!

HYPERTENSION (HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE)

What is Blood Pressure?

  • Blood pressure is the amount of pressure the circulating blood puts on the artery walls.
  • Each time the heart contracts or beats, blood is pumped out and creates pressure in the arteries. This surge of pressure is known as systolic pressure and is the top number of the blood pressure reading.
  • Each time the heart relaxes between beats, the blood pressure will go down. This is known as the diastolic pressure and is the bottom number of the blood pressure reading.

What is High Blood Pressure?

  • High blood pressure is a reading higher than 130/85 mmHg.
  • It is called the “Silent Killer,” as there are no warning symptoms.

Why is High Blood Pressure Dangerous?

  • It increases the workload of the heart, causing the heart muscle to become enlarged over time.
  • It increases the heart’s need for oxygen.
  • The constant increased pressure damages the inside lining of the arteries and causes small rough spots that attracts cholesterol resulting in a build up of plaque. This leads to a narrowing of the artery which decreases blood flow.
  • It is a contributing factor in:
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke
    • Congestive heart failure
    • Kidney failure

How is High Blood Pressure Treated?

  • Low sodium (salt) diet
  • Medication
  • Weight loss
  • Exercise

HIGH CHOLESTEROL LEVELS

What is Cholesterol?

  • Cholesterol is the fat that is found in atherosclerotic plaque. It narrows the artery, reducing blood flow.
  • Age, gender, heredity, and diet affect cholesterol levels.
  • Refer to section on Cholesterol.

LACK OF REGULAR EXERCISE

  • Lack of regular exercise decreases the efficiency of the heart’s vascular system (blood vessels) blood vessels.
  • Exercise can help decrease other risk factors such as high blood pressure, stress, obesity, and high cholesterol levels.

STRESS

  • Chronic stress of an intense and negative nature can have a detrimental effect on the heart.
  • See section on Stress

OBESITY (25 – 30% over recommended weight for age, sex and height)

  • Makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout a larger body
  • Increases the heart’s need for oxygen
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases cholesterol levels
  • Can lead to diabetes

FAMILY HISTORY

If there is a family history of coronary artery disease, it is more likely that future generations will develop coronary artery disease.

  • Genetic makeup determines the way the body handles cholesterol and other fats.
  • Family habits and traits such as eating high-fat meals, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, overweight, and hypertension can contribute to the development of heart disease.

DIABETES

  • People with diabetes are at greater risk for developing heart disease at an earlier age and it is also likely to progress at a faster rate.
  • It negatively affects cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • The risk is lessened when diabetes is controlled by observing dietary restrictions and/or taking prescribed medications.

AGE

  • About 5% of all heart attacks occur in people under age 40, and 45% occur in people under age 65. Of those who die, almost four out of five are over 65. Atherosclerosis is part of the aging process, but its progression and severity depend on family history and lifestyle factors.

GENDER

  • Men are at greater risk for heart attacks, and they occur at an earlier age in men than women. Female hormones protect women in their younger years. After menopause, women’s death rate from heart disease increases because of decreasing estrogen levels. Yet, in today’s society, women are also exposed to additional stressors e.g. careers, and they are more likely to smoke, thus increasing their risk of heart disease.

 

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Damaging Free Radicals and Super Hero Antioxidants

In cells, oxygen is constantly involved in chemical reactions in which electrons are shifted around. This is called oxidation. In an oxidation reaction, one atom or compound will steal electrons from another atom or compound. This process creates highly reactive, unstable, harmful particles known as free radicals.  Free radicals cause damage and many experts believe damage from free radicals is a factor in the development of  blood vessel disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and many chronic diseases. Free radicals can cause LDL cholesterol to oxidize, increasing cardiovascular risk. They can also damage genes in ways that contribute to the aging process. The damage to cells caused by free radicals, especially the damage to DNA, may play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.

We are exposed to free radicals through normal cellular processes, the effects of ultraviolet light and sun exposure, air pollution, trauma, excess heat, and smoking or when the body breaks down certain medicines. Our bodies also produce free radicals during exercise because we inhale more oxygen and use more energy and through by-products of normal processes that take place in your body (such as the burning of sugars for energy and the release of digestive enzymes to break down food). To generate energy, our cells remove electrons from sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids and add them to other molecules, especially oxygen. All this creates free radicals.

Antioxidants to the rescue. Antioxidants are the superheroes of the complex world of biochemistry because they provide an electron that the free radical is missing and neutralize it, ending the chain of destruction. Antioxidants thus protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants play a role in the management or prevention of some medical conditions and aging. 

It takes a variety of antioxidants and lots of them to help successfully deactivate the different kinds of free radicals. The body’s natural antioxidant defense system is partly fueled by the antioxidants we consume. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, lignan, lycopene, and other carotenoids, and selenium. In general, the best dietary sources of antioxidants are vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds and other plant-derived foods.

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