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How can you eat more heart healthy this year? Is vegan the way to go? Do you need to cut out oils in your diet? Has COVID has made an impact on how you are eating? Julia Zumpano RD, LD Preventive Cardiology dietitian provides helpful tips and gets us back on track toward heart healthy 2021.

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Eat Heart Healthy Diet In 2021

Podcast Transcript

Announcer:
Welcome to Love Your Heart, brought to you by Cleveland Clinic's Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute. These podcasts will help you learn more about your heart, thoracic and vascular systems; ways to stay healthy; and information about diseases and treatment options. Enjoy!

Julia Zumpano:
Hello, my name is Julia Zumpano. I'm a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic, specifically working in preventative cardiology. A question that I get all the time is, "How can I kickstart my diet now being the new year of 2021?"

Julia Zumpano:
I want to start with three basic steps. We focus on a Mediterranean-style diet of eating for optimum heart health. The Mediterranean diet is abundant in fruits and vegetables, grains, fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Starting off with eating more meatless meals will definitely get you closer to heart health. Incorporating beans, legumes, any kind of nuts and seeds, and meatless products like tofu, tempeh, if you want to get adventurous into your diet a little more regularly. I generally say start with one meatless meal a week, replacing a meal of meat, ideally red meat, with a meatless meal.

Julia Zumpano:
My second goal or second way to kickstart your new year of 2021 would be to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eventually, we want to get to a goal of a fruit and a vegetable with every meal. That may seem unattainable, so we just start with what we're doing now, and maybe double the amount of fruits and vegetables you're having. If you're having fruits and vegetables only two to three times a week, shoot for one fruit or vegetable every day. Just try to work on formulating meals around fruits and vegetables, as opposed to formulating around meat and starch.

Julia Zumpano:
And my third goal would be to eat more fish. Fish is a great source of protein and has abundant amount of omega-3 fatty acids if you're choosing oily, cold water fish. Omega-3 fatty acids help in regards to heart health. They keep your arteries more smooth, help decrease inflammation, decrease blood triglyceride values, which are fats found in our blood. The oily fish have the omega-3, but the non-oily white fish or shellfish are much lower and may not have any omega-3 at all, but are still excellent protein choices, especially when compared to red meat. Overall, increasing your fish intake will get you closer to a better heart and better health in the new year.

Julia Zumpano:
Commonly, I get asked if a completely vegetarian diet is essential for heart health. And I would say the answer is no. You do not need to be completely vegan or vegetarian, which is when you avoid animal products completely. I think there is a safe amount of some animal product you can have in your diet. The Mediterranean diet does include some of those animal products. It's just in moderation. If you choose to be vegan or vegetarian for other reasons other than heart health, there's certainly many ways you can do that and be as healthy as you possibly can. Meeting with a dietitian can help you make sure you meet all your essential nutrient needs if you choose to be vegan or vegetarian, but it's not essential for heart health.

Julia Zumpano:
Another common question I get asked is about fats and oils. Should they be completely avoided? Oils and fats provide you essential fatty acids, which are essential for our health, even our heart health. It's the type of oil and fat you're using that's really important. Choosing mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, which are mainly plant-based fats. Not all plant fats are good, so we want to avoid plant fats that are more saturated at room temperature, like a palm oil, coconut oil. We want to choose more liquid plant fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, nut oils, seed oils. Nuts, olives avocados, those provide essential fats, essential fatty acids, and are not detrimental to our heart health.

Julia Zumpano:
During this time of COVID, we've definitely seen some dietary changes occur across the board, which have led to maybe some weight gain and unhealthy health outcomes, so we want to focus on making one big change that will impact your heart health and overall health that you've been noticing COVID has brought about, such as snacking. If you're noticing that you're snacking more, maybe make a goal of trying to include more healthy snacks into your diet. Healthy snacks would include things like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and grains. Starting with replacing one unhealthy snack with a healthy snack a day.

Julia Zumpano:
If it's meal timing that has been thrown off due to the pandemic, trying to look at better structure of your meals, so maybe setting times for your meals and trying to limit snacking in between or even set times aside for snacks. And third might be portions, so you might be eating larger portions than you normally are because you're cooking more or ordering in more, whatever the case might be. Take a look at how much you are eating and make a conscious effort to make a slight reduction, usually by 10 to 25% of your normal intake. Looking at just using a smaller plate, a smaller bowl. If you're not eating plates or bowls or maybe eating just right out of a container of the meal that you may have had delivered, trying to put it in a smaller plate or bowl to be able to have a better understanding of how much you're actually eating. I wish everybody a healthy and happy and heart-friendly 2021. Please keep in mind that any change can make a big impact, to focus on small changes and add as you go, and those will make the best long-term outcomes.

Announcer:
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed the podcast. We welcome your comments and feedback. Please contact us at heart@ccf.org. Like what you heard? Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, or listen at ClevelandClinic.org/LoveYourHeartPodcast.


Love Your Heart
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Love Your Heart

A Cleveland Clinic podcast to help you learn more about heart and vascular disease and conditions affecting your chest. We explore prevention, diagnostic tests, medical and surgical treatments, new innovations and more. 

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