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Here's to a healthy heart in 2013

Posted by Consumer Reports on January 6, 2013
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Heart-healthy-foods

Did you overindulge during the holidays?  It's time to bounce back to better eating habits because healthy eating has its rewards â€" especially for your heart.  According to ConsumerReports.org, these 9 eating strategies are good for your heart and overall health.

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors.  Here are just a few of the benefits of consuming colorful produce:

Fruit or vegetable Phytochemical Possible benefits
Beets, cranberries, kidney beans, raspberries, red apples, red cabbage, red onions, strawberries, sweet cherries Anthocyanins* Lowered blood pressure; protection against circulatory problems caused by diabetes.
Garlic, leeks, white onions Allicin Reduced risk of cancer spread and heart attack; lowered cholesterol and blood pressure; enhanced infection defenses.
Blackberries, black currants, blueberries, elderberries, purple grapes Anthocyanins* Reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and age-related memory loss.
Apricots, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, mangos, peaches, pumpkin, sweet potatoes Beta-carotene Reduced risk of cancer and heart disease; maintenance of good vision; increased infection-fighting ability.
Apricots, clementines, grapefruit, lemons, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, tangerines, yellow peppers, yellow raisins Bioflavonoids Together with the vitamin C in these fruits, reduced cancer and heart-attack risk; maintenance of healthy skin, bones, and teeth.

Choose healthy fats.   Swap unsaturated fats-such as those in canola, olive, safflower, and soybean oils-for saturated fats such as those in butter. Avoid trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oil that lurks in margarines and many fast or packaged foods. Trans fats raise LDL, lower HDL, and inflame the arteries.

Cut back on salt. Aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, the amount in a teaspoon of salt. If you already have high blood pressure, try to cut back to 1,500 mg. Focus especially on prepared and packaged foods, since that's were most salt in our diet lurks.

Get plenty of fiber. It can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, possibly by absorbing saturated fat in the gut. It may also help control inflammation. And it helps you feel full to help with weight-loss. Good sources of fiber include fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. Soluble fiber found especially in barley, beans, and oats may be particularly effective.

Limit dietary cholesterol. If your LDL is elevated, consume less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day.  That's the amount in one egg yolk, 8 ounces of skinless chicken breast, or 10 ounces of lean sirloin. Others should keep daily consumption under 300 mg.

Drink moderately, if at all.  Up to one drink a day for women and two for men can raise HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, possibly reduce inflammation, and help ward off diabetes. But even a little too much alcohol undermines the heart.

Consider plant stanols or sterols. These naturally occurring substances are now added to a number of products, including Benecol, Take Control margarine and Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice. Consuming two servings a day may reduce LDL by 5 to 17 percent.

Add soy to your diet. Two to three daily servings of soy protein-from tofu, soy milk, and other soy products-may reduce LDL by up to 10 percent.  

Don't overeat. The rate of heart attack increases after big meals. And digesting lots of food at once may inflame the arteries.  Overeating can also lead to being overweight which is not good for your heart or general health.

For more consumer advice, interactive tools and lab-tested product ratings, subscribe to Consumer Reports online.  Use your Union Plus discount and pay just $22 for one year (reg. $30).

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