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American Heart Month: Nutrition for a Heart Healthy Diet

In previous a blog celebrating American Heart Month, we detailed heart healthy habits to decrease your chances of getting some form of heart disease. We lightly touched on areas of your diet that, depending on the nutrient and the amount you consume, can either hurt or help your heart. Since it is still February and your heart health should always be a top priority, below is a more detailed look at 2 nutrients that are important to your overall well-being, but the amount consumed needs to be monitored.

Sodium

Despite all the warnings we issue about how terrible it is for your heart health, sodium is an important mineral for your body. It gets dissolved in your blood and holds water, so it is directly involved with the liquid portion of your blood. As a result, it’s a crucial nutrient when it comes to regulating your blood pressure. But that is also its downside. If you consume too much sodium, you’ll have an increase of water in your blood steam, which equates to higher blood pressure.

You might be thinking, “So what? Higher blood pressure just means that my blood gets to the parts of my body that need it faster.” This is a bad way to look at it. Instead, picture a garden hose. Imagine if that hose was on full blast at all times. At some point, the green lining of the garden hose would get damaged due to the incredibly high pressure that is being forced through it, every time it’s being used. This is what happens to your blood vessels if you have high blood pressure. In time, they become stretched and worn, leaving you with higher chances of plaque forming in them and placing extra strain on your heart for making it work extra hard.

However, as we stated up top, sodium is important for your body, especially if you stay active. You can’t cut it out of your diet entirely, but you do need watch how much you consume. The FDA recommends that you consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which seems pretty easy to accomplish. Until you realize that just one serving of French fries contains 246 mg of sodium, which is 10% of your daily value. A lot of foods add excess sodium to make their product taste better. Just be warry of what you’re eating and watch the nutritional facts on the packaging. Your daily intake of sodium can add up pretty quickly.

Fats

Fats are another nutrient that gets constantly talked about in a negative perspective. However, just like sodium, fats are important for your body in order to operate properly. They give your body energy and support cell growth. They also help you absorb other important nutrients and produce important hormones. Your body definitely needs them.

Of course, you still need to eat them in moderation. It’s also important to realize the four different types of fats. They are:

  • Saturated fats
  • Trans fats
  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats

The so-called “bad fats” are trans fats and saturated fats. They tend to be solids at room temperature (think of a stick of butter). As a result, they are sticky and gunky when traveling through your blood vessels. They attribute to a large part of the plaque build up that can occur in them. That’s why they’re considered bad. They definitely increase your chances of getting some form of heart disease like a stroke or heart attack.

The “good fats”, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, tend to be a liquid at room temperature (think vegetable oil or canola oil). They are less likely to plug up the pathways for your blood to flow through, so your chances of high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack do not increase as much. However, there are nine calories in every gram of fat. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating the good kind or the bad kind. Consuming a high level of calories always leads to weight gain. Therefore, you still need to monitor how much fat, regardless of the type, you’re consuming.

Everything is Best in Moderation

As you can see, even the bad things we’re supposed to leave out from our diets can be beneficial. Sodium and fats are important. They help with a lot of the major processes that go on inside of our bodies. However, as the old adage goes, the two of them can be “too much of a good thing.” It’s best to make sure you’re consuming sodium and fats in moderation. That way your body can still operate correctly without adding to your chances of getting heart disease.

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