Nearly 200 people learned at February 27 event hosted by St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Care program how they can be kind to their hearts and improve their health by reducing consumption of three processed food staples – sugar, fat and salt.
An event called The Truth about Sugar, Fat and Salt, highlighted how high levels of three ingredients that are typical in North American diets have led to an increase in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
“High sugar diets can contribute to obesity and increased triglyceride levels (a type of fat in the blood), which are both risk factors for diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr. Murray Pearce, Medical Director of the Cardiac Program at St. Mary’s. “Trans fats in many processed foods also increase heart disease risk by increasing bad cholesterol and decreasing good cholesterol,” he said.
Registered Dietitian Janice Holley, who works with heart patients at St. Mary’s, told the audience, “our taste buds have been trained from decades of eating highly refined sugary foods with extra fats and high sodium to think that’s how food should taste.”
Holley explained the link between heart disease and over consumption of sugar, fat and salt. She outlined targets for daily intake and how to read Nutrition Fact labels to make educated choices. Holley also presented tips (see below) to cut the amount of sugar fat and salt in your diet and retrain your taste buds.
“It takes about three weeks to get accustomed to the natural flavor of foods, and, once you do, you won’t enjoy highly processed foods in the same way,” says Holley.
The event’s theme was in recognition of Heart Month and is timely with the launch of National Nutrition Month on March 1.
Top 10 Tips to Cut the Sugar, Fat and Salt
1) Choose single ingredient foods
- your best guarantee that you’re missing out on added sugar, salt and fat
- all natural nut butters like peanut, almond, and cashew are great examples…they’re just nuts
- olive oil and canola oil daily for food prep and recipes
- milk products that are either fat free (skim) or low fat (<2% M.F. milk fat)
2) Read Nutrition Fact Labels
- Trans fat target = 0 g per serving
- Sugar target = less than 10 g per serving
- Sodium target = less than 200 mg per serving
3) Choose fresh
- for the most flavour, eat seasonally and buy locally when possible
- limit canned, frozen and packaged ready-to-eat deli-counter foods
4) Choose whole
- whole fruits and vegetables in place of juices
- whole grains including 100% whole wheat, couscous, bulgur (cracked wheat), wheat bran, rye, barley, spelt, oats, oat bran, flaxseed
- other grains like quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, wild rice, amaranth, millet
5) Choose lean
- fresh, lean cuts of meat such as tenderloin, sirloin, eye of round, and skinless poultry such as chicken and turkey breast (avoid all breaded, batter-coated and seasoned)
- wild, ocean fish at least twice a week such as salmon, trout, bluefin tuna or albacore white tuna
6) Choose plant
- all kinds of beans such as kidney, navy, black, pinto, lima, soy, Mexican red
- dried split peas, lentils, chickpeas
- raw unsalted nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts and seeds including sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flax, hemp, chia
- fruits and vegetables
- avocado sliced in sandwiches, chopped in salads, mashed for dips/spreads
7) Choose colour
- flavonoid rich blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, red plums, black plums, red grapes, red onions, red cabbage
- fiber and anti-oxidant rich oranges, red/yellow/orange/green sweet peppers, dates, raisins, prunes
- carotenoid rich squash, sweet potato, tomato, carrots, spinach, brussel sprouts, beets and broccoli
- dark greens like kale, spinach, swiss chard, bok choy, romaine
8) Keep it simple for flavour
- regular staples for your grocery cart should include whole lemons, limes, whole peppercorns, fresh ginger, garlic, onion , cinnamon
- herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, oregano and mint add flavour and phytonutrients; add any of these last-minute additions just before serving
9) Follow the plate method for portion control and balance
*adapted from Canadian Diabetes Association
10) Learn to love whole foods
- Think about what healthy eating is to you; you’re not doing this for anyone other than yourself, so YOU need to value the health benefits to stick to it.
- Developing your passion for fresh whole foods is a process not a project!
For more heart healthy nutrition information and recipes, choose credible resources: