2012-03-09 / Community

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Celebrates Nutrition Month


The dietitians at Bishop MacLean Nursing Home and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital recommend a heart healthy diet, with “good” fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The dietitians at Bishop MacLean Nursing Home and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital recommend a heart healthy diet, with “good” fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. March is National Nutrition Month as declared by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a good time to review the importance of making sound food choices for a healthy heart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States in 2010. Some of the risk factors for heart disease are: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, stress, age (for women) and family history.

Even though you cannot control genetics or family history, age or sex, you can reduce heart disease by focusing on lifestyle changes, such as following a heart healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, avoiding smoking and managing stress. But what is a heart healthy diet? At St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and Bishop MacLean Nursing Home, we counsel patients and residents that a heart healthy diet is basically eating small portions, choosing the right fats, eating whole grains, limiting salt and sugar and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Enough with the saturated and trans fats. Stay away from these fats as they can raise your LDL or bad cholesterol. Avoid eating animal fats (lard, butter), vegetable products (coconut, palm kernel or cottonseed oils), processed foods, some meats (specially cured or processed meats), dairy products (cheese, cream), baked goods and deep-fried foods. Choose lean meats (the package will indicate 90% or higher lean meat), poultry, fish and fat-free dairy.

Some fats are not bad at all.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and olive oil, have properties that protect your heart. Eat fish 2 to 3 times weekly and use olive oil for all your cooking needs. And remember to avoid frying your fish! Whole grains, yes! Refined grains, no! Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products, such as whole-grain flour, oatmeal, and brown rice.

A diet rich in fiber helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as providing other nutrients that protect your heart.

Refined grains are the same grains mentioned above, only processed, removing the goodness of fiber, B-Vitamins and iron.

Include at least 3 servings of whole grain daily, and 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Spice it up! Eating less salt can help you control your blood pressure. Season your food with herbs (dried or fresh) and vegetables or fruits, instead of salt. Try lemon on fish, garlic on meats and oregano on soups and stews. Stay away from brand-name spices, buy the herbs separately and create your own blends! Also, most processed foods (canned, boxed and some frozen) contain a lot of salt. Read your food labels and limit your salt intake to

1,500-2,000 mg of sodium (salt) daily.

Oh sweetie …staying away from sugary foods can help you achieve a healthy weight and prevent diabetes and pre-diabetes. Use sugar substitutes for coffee and tea, try unsweetened cereals, avoid flavored milk and switch to diet beverages. If you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to one sugary food no more than once a week. Avoid keeping foods at home that you are tempted to eat!

I’m nuts about you! Legumes, nuts and seeds provide many heart-protective nutrients: fiber and unsaturated “good” fats. Nuts and seeds make a great snack, while legumes (beans and lentils) are a great meat substitute because they also contain protein. Include four servings of these per week, remember 1 serving = a handful of nuts or ½ cup of cooked legumes. And get moving … exercise is just as important as following a healthy diet as it can help you manage your weight and stress. Walking is the easiest way to add exercise to your day; you can start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to the post office or supermarket whenever possible.

Try to do at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walk) per week; you can do a little bit each day or choose a few days a week to get it done. For more information on heart disease and nutrition, you may contact the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org), the American Heart Association (www.heart.org), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (www.usda.gov).

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