Ron Flohr has been using his diet to keep his heart healthy for about 20 years.
“My cholesterol was a little bit high, and I wanted to knock it down,” he said.
That means no fried foods, no red meat, minimal seasonings and cutting out grease.
Now, the Princeton-area man says he feels better because of the changes he has made.
“There really isn’t anything that I miss eating,” Flohr said. “You get used to it — it doesn’t take that long; it’s just willpower.”
Eating for heart health means consuming omega-3 fats, flax seed, fiber and avoiding sodium, according to Donna Rochnowski, registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Peru.
“The front of the product is advertising,” Rochnowski said. “The back — where the nutrition facts are — is what matters.”
Sources of omega-3 fats are fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring and halibut. Rochnowski said that for those who dislike fishy tastes and smells, she recommends fish oil gel capsules that are enteric-coated to prevent “fishy burps.”
Brittney Junker, registered dietitian at Illinois Valley Community Hospital, said plant-based omega-3 fats are preferred.
“That animal fat is really what affects our cholesterol level,” Junker said.
For vegetarian sources, flax seed and chia seed are recommended. Rochnowski said flax seed must be ground into powder because its protective casing will limit absorption into the body. Ground flax seed must be refrigerated, Rochnowski said, but chia seed does not need to be.
Fiber is found in plant-based foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, Junker said. She called fiber “a recycling service” that binds fats and cholesterol in the intestines to prevent them from being absorbed and recirculated back into the body.
Although some sodium is necessary, Rochnowski said the typical American diet contains far more than what is required. Therefore, she recommends limiting sodium intake.
Rochnowski said advertisers have steered away from labeling items “low-sodium” for fear of appearing to have less taste. Instead, she said, low-sodium items can be identified by phrases like “hint of salt.” Shoppers should look at the nutrition label for 140 grams or fewer of sodium per serving, she said.
Rochnowski also said to pay attention to grams and milligrams on the label and not the percent daily value, which is different for everyone.
“Sodium is a big one, too,” Junker said. “It makes us hold onto fluid, and that makes our heart work harder and makes it less efficient over time.”
Processed food items are the main culprits for high sodium intake.
“The more something is processed, the more sodium it is likely to have,” Junker said. “Seventy-five percent of the salt we consume is through processed food.”
Junker also said to avoid trans fats and sugary drinks.
For Flohr, exchanging steak for poultry and fish, frying for grilling or baking, and butter for olive oil is worth it.
“Eating healthy is not that hard to do,” he said.
(The following is from the American Heart Association website, www.heart.org.)
Pear and Cherry Crumble
Recipe courtesy David Hagedorn
Ingredients for the fruit
Juice of one lemon
5-6 fresh pears, the riper the better
1 cup dried cherries
Zest of one lemon
1/2 cup pear juice (may substitute apple juice)
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup vanilla granola
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup trans fat free margarine spread
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water and the juice of one lemon. Cut the stems off the pears and peel them, placing each one in the acidulated water as you do so. Then, half, core and seed the pears and cut them into inch-thick lengthwise slices or chunks, returning each sliced pear to the lemon water until the job is completed. Drain the cut pears in a colander and return them to the mixing bowl. Add the cherries, lemon zest, pear or apple juice, honey, flavorings, spices, and one tablespoon of flour to the fruit and stir to mix everything well. Let the fruit macerate for 15 minutes; then place it in the prepared baking dish.
Make the topping. Place the granola, flour, brown sugar, almonds, and spices in a large mixing bowl and toss them together lightly. Add the margarine spread and use your hands to work the spread into the dry ingredients until blended but crumbly. Spread the topping over the pears. Place the dish on the foil-lined baking sheet and bake the crumble for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the juices are bubbling and translucent. Serve warm.
More recipes in Wednesday's NewsTribune