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National Restaurant Association - Ask the Nutritionist: Balance a healthful diet, physical activity for a healthy heart

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Ask the Nutritionist: Balance a healthful diet, physical activity for a healthy heart

The National Restaurant Association’s Director of Nutrition & Healthy Living Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., provides regular commentary on the NRA News blog. In this post, she highlights heart health for American Heart Month.

According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease causes almost one in every four death in the U.S., making heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack.

In light of February being American Heart Month, we are going to focus on a few facts of CAD. Risk factors include being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and other blood lipids (fats), type II diabetes, tobacco use, and lack of physical activity.

With four of those six risk factors being nutrition-related, a good approach to heart healthy eating includes:

• a diet focused on vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, fish, low-fat diary, nuts and seeds
• a balanced amount of fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) in the diet
• decreased intake of saturated and trans fat
• monitoring sodium intake

Studies show that those that follow this type of diet can reduce their risk of CAD and even live longer. In 2008, the British Medical Journal reported findings on the dietary habits of more than 1.5 million participants for up to 18 years, and discovered that those who followed this type of diet experienced a 9 percent decrease in death from heart disease.

With the consumption of trans fats being a cause of heart disease, the restaurant industry has already made great strides in reducing and eliminating artificial trans fat from their menu items. The industry has also been taking measures to voluntarily reduce sodium in menu items. In addition, we know from our What’s Hot in 2012 chef survey that produce, seafood, whole grains and overall health and nutrition are in the top 20 trends. All of these support a healthy heart.

I would like to emphasize the importance of lifestyle modification in reducing your risk of CAD. Following a well-balanced diet, along with physical activity, can help support a healthy heart and a healthy you.

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