Tips for low-fat diet may be best gift for your heart BY LINDA SHRIEVES
On Valentine's Day, when we give each other heart-shaped cards and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, hearts are heavy on our minds.
``There is no magic bullet,'' says Dr. Fred Cobb, director of Duke University's Center for Living. ``What people should remember is that they need to lower fat in their diets.''
The best way to do that is to eat more fruit and vegetables and cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, such as well-marbled meat, fatty luncheon meats like pastrami and dairy products.
Variety is also important. The human body needs a variety of fruits and veggies to get the wide range of nutrients that nature offers. That said, however, there are foods that appear to help your heart - just as there are foods that you ought to avoid if you're battling high
What follows are 10 foods or food groups that can help put you on the road to a healthier heart:1. Green, leafy vegetables. Your mom was right about eating your vegetables. A diet high in fruits and vegetables has many benefits: Not only are you getting many cancer- and disease-fighting agents when you eat them, but if you fill up on vegetables, you'll have less room for fatty foods.
The vegetables we need most, however, are the ones that we don't eat enough of - witness America's devotion to the nutrient-less iceberg lettuce and starchy corn.
We should eat more spinach, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce and broccoli. They're high in anti-oxidants and folic acid, which help prevent heart disease.
Orange or deep-yellow vegetables. Like green, leafy veggies, these aren't Americans' favorites, but orange vegetables are rich in anti-oxidants. Carrots, yams, pumpkin, sweet potato and winter squash are high in beta-carotene, an essential anti-oxidant.
Beware, however, of eating vegetables that are cooked in fat.
Citrus. High in anti-oxidants and vitamin C, citrus is one of nature's best disease-fighters. Oranges are high in vitamin C, and they're also a source of folic acid, another heart-disease fighter.
Red wine. Scientists who have studied the eating habits of the French and heart-disease believe that the French custom of drinking red wine with dinner may contribute to their lower incidence of heart disease.
Although U.S. health officials question the wisdom of ``prescribing'' alcohol, the French paradox scientists suggest no more than two 5-ounce glasses of wine a day, preferably drunk with a meal.
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. This category includes salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Omega-3 fatty acids have only a minor effect on LDL (or ``bad'') cholesterol, but they are much more effective at lowering your triglyceride level, according to ``The New Living Heart Diet'' (Fireside, $16). Studies have found that people who have suffered a heart attack can stave off future heart troubles and unclog arteries by eating omega-3 fish. How much? Two portions of these fish a week.
Extra-lean meats. You don't have to become a vegetarian to have a healthy heart but the authors of the ``New Living Heart Diet'' suggest you buy meat ``lean'' or ``extra lean.'' Limit intake to 5 or 6 ounces a day. Here's a rule of thumb: 3 ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards.
``In truth, there's nothing wrong with eating beef,'' said ``Living Heart'' co-author Lynne Scott, ``as long as it's very lean and the portion is no more than 6 ounces for the entire day. You also need to make sure other low-fat foods are served with it.''
Soy foods. Before you gag at the thought of tofu, read on. Research shows that replacing some animal protein (such as cheese or meat) with at least 25 grams of soy protein daily can dramatically lower your level of bad-cholesterol, also known as LDL. If you hate tofu's texture, consider using soy milk, making side dishes with green soy beans or making milkshakes with tofu. And don't forget soy burgers, which are getting tastier these days.
``Soy is the only nonanimal food that will give you all eight essential amino-acids that we normally get from animal products,'' said Kim DeGaetano, a clinical dietitian at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford.
Olive oil or canola oil. Don't drown food in oil. The idea is to eliminate as much oil, butter and margarine from your diet as possible.
Garlic. Daily consumption of garlic seems to wash away some arterial plaque. The slow and steady approach, however, is the key. In studies, patients who ate two or three cloves a day had lower rates of fatal heart attacks and fewer attacks of angina, but the effect was only evident after two years of following the regimen.