Heart Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized

Just the Facts (on Fats)

MGH Hypertension Blog

Olive Oil. Photo credit: Thomas Lobker

Remember the big “low-fat craze” of the 1990’s?  It seemed like every magazine was proclaiming the dangers of fat in the diet, no-fat diet books filled the bookstores, and supermarkets began carrying a variety of fat-free chips and cookies.  All of this was based around the idea that fat is bad for you, and eating healthy meant avoiding it whenever possible.  When you consider that high fat diets are linked to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, it’s understandable how this craze could catch on.  But the truth is we need some fat in our diet.

 Fat is used to build and maintain cell membranes and is crucial for the body to absorb certain vitamins (such as Vitamins A and D).  And, like carbohydrate and protein, fat is used as a source of energy.  However, not all fats are the same.  While some types…

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Heart Health, Nutrition

Heart Health Month: Healthy Diet, Healthy Heart

Apple, glass of milk, bread and heart

Remember the old saying “you are what you eat”? No, it doesn’t mean you’ll turn into a hot dog if you eat one every day—it’s the idea that diet has an impact on your health. Considering what we know about the link between heart disease and a diet high in saturated fat, there does seem to be some proof to that that statement.

But not everything is doom and gloom; some studies have shown that a healthy diet can have a positive impact on the health of your heart. For instance, a recent study suggests that a diet rich in whole grains is as effective at lowering high blood pressure as blood pressure medications. But probably the best known study looking at the effect of diet on blood pressure was the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) study.

Results for the study showed that the DASH eating plan—which emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy as well as whole grains, poultry and nuts while limiting saturated fat, cholesterol and sweets—was effective at lowering blood pressure among participants. The DASH eating plan was also higher in potassium, a nutrient that helps the heart beat properly, than a typical American diet (for more information about the study, check out this brochure from the National Institutes of Health).

So clearly, what you eat can have both positive and negative effects on your health. Because of the connection between Diabetes and high blood pressure, it’s important to take good care of your heart. But remember, diet is just one component of a healthy lifestyle; regular exercise is also a key part of maintaining overall health and wellness.

Be sure to talk to your Diabetes care team if you have any questions about your meal plan.

(Information reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department)