For your heart

Thanks for your comments to my last post. I hate being all whiney about injuries or when running isn’t going as well as I’d like – life is pretty good, after all – but it does help to write about it every once and a while to get my frustrations out.

An appropriate mantra I’ve been using this week?

“just keep swimming. just keep swimming. just keep swiiimmmmmming.”

Appropriate on all fronts, since I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time in the pool. Even so, I’m hoping that running talk will continue soon – the hamstring is feeling pretty good, and if all is well next week I’ll probably try a few cautious miles (hooray!).

But for now I’ll just talk about nutrition stuff
This week we’ve been studying cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Medical Nutrition Therapy, and like diabetes, it’s a chronic disease that we will likely see almost every day because of how prevalent it is in this country.

this is your heart. be nice to it.

Besides planning diets low in sodium and saturated fat, high in fiber, fruits, vegetables and whole grains and learning about various heart conditions during another marathon study weekend, one thing kept jumping out at me:

The modifiable risk factors are the ones you CAN change, and the non-modifiable are the ones you can’t. I’m studying nutrition, not math, but it’s pretty clear to see the odds are actually in our favor.

Healthy eating for your heart
You don’t have to be a certain age, have any risk factors or other chronic diseases to eat a heart healthy diet. If you ask me, if kind of makes sense for most of the population. I mean, it’s your heart! The thing that works 24 hours a day to keep you alive, yes?

The term “heart healthy” is all over the place lately, and you probably see these “heart check marks” on various foods in the grocery store.


But do they mean anything? And if so, what?

They do mean something! Foods labeled with the heart check mark MUST meet the following FDA standards for a single serving size:

  • Total Fat: Less than 6.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less and 15% or less total calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg or less
  • Sodium: 480 mg or less
  • Beneficial Nutrients: 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber)

According to the American Heart Association, unsweetened popcorn is the only certifiable product in the snack category, and no desserts are eligible for certification.

I think the idea of putting these check marks on foods is a great way to help people quickly see what foods may be a little better for them than others. But this labeling still has some flaws, and in January 2014, the standards will be updated to include more limits on sugar in whole grains, yogurt, canned and frozen fruit and stricter fiber requirements for whole grains.

January 2014 is kind of a long ways away, so here’s my go-to list of heart-healthy foods that meet the old and new criteria:

Whole grains:

  • Whole wheat, sprouted grain bread
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Kashi Heart to Heart
  • Oats

Fruits & Vegetables

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Bell peppers
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Brussels sprouts

Low-fat dairy

  • Skim milk
  • Greek yogurt (0%, plain)
  • Cottage cheese (low fat or fat free)

Lean meats, poultry & fish*

  • Salmon
  • Chicken breast (skinless)
  • Lean turkey (95% or better)
  • Cod
*these aren’t measured against the FDA criteria, but are among the best choices for your heart

Question: Do you consider your diet “heart healthy”? What are some of your go-to foods?

17 thoughts on “For your heart

  1. Anonymous

    I like produce and whole grains and (lots of) red wine, does that count as heart healthy? I hope so! Thinking good thoughts for your hamstring :)

  2. Meggie

    I’d go with mostly heart healthy besides my sweet tooth. Also, I can’t seem to get into kale — too bitter I think. Hope all is well over there!!!

  3. Sarah

    I eat mostly heart healthy, except for probably too much coffee and too many cookies. But I LOVE vegetables and I eat a sweet potato basically every day (it’s the only reliably tasty thing available at my schools cafeteria. I can’t WAIT to have my own apartment next year!).
    I hope you stay swimming and sane while your hamstring heals up. I’m sure you’ll be back on your feet soon!

    1. Anonymous

      thanks!! Wow, I don’t think my school’s cafeteria had sweet potatoes! Or maybe I was too busy eating french fries to notice. hmm…

  4. Kimra

    I don’t consciously (except when I’m with my in-laws, who are pretty careful about that), but some of my favorite foods are on your list, so maybe I do! I love everything on that fruits & veggies list except bananas. I love cheese too much to really claim to be heart-healthy, though, I suspect.

  5. Jess

    Great post! I don’t make a huge effort to eat a heart-healthy diet, but I do tend to eat mostly heart-healthy foods as it is. And I love wine…I do love eggs, though—the yoke is a precious, delicious thing, if only good for you in moderation : )

  6. Josie @

    I think I eat reasonably well- I don’t tend to go for fatty burgers, chips too often. But I don’t pay much attention to salt/sodium- kind of (perhaps naively) thinking that it is something to worry about when I am older. I also tend to eat a bit of sugar… but thats to power my runs :)

  7. Emily

    SHUT THE EFFF UP!! Today I was talking to my mom on the phone and I said ‘just keep swimming. just keep swimming. just keep swiiimmmmmming’ and she had NO idea what I was talking about!!! I am not kidding!!! Okay that was exciting!

  8. RunningWatchesReview

    Great article, I agree with you in your article that you don’t have to be on a certain age to have any risk factors for chronic diseases. That is why, it is very important to eat healthy and live healthy. I guess my diet is pretty good. I eat enough fruits and vegetables and I could consider myself very healthy :). Thank you for sharing this article, this is really great!

  9. Jocelyn Bonneau

    I try to eat well, but I think I need to start cooking at home more. That would probably help! Go to foods: fruit, salads, sushi, and picky bars!

  10. Anonymous

    I think I do pretty well when it comes to eating heart healthy, mostly because we cook at home a lot so we control what we’re eating and it’s mostly whole foods. I’m glad to hear that an FDA standard is actually fairly good, although it’s disappointing to hear that it’s another year and a half before it’s even better. Guess it’s not surprising though! Just curious, what do you think of 2% Greek yogurt?

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