CINCINNATI - Each year, an average of 600,000 Americans die of heart disease, and more than 935,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control .
Experts agree: Maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in routine exercise are the most effective ways to fight off and prevent heart disease and diabetes.
Dr. Charles Glueck, of The Jewish Hospital Cholesterol and Metabolism Center , spoke with WCPO Digital about the facts and common misconceptions about diet and health.
What to eat, what to avoid
There are countless diets to choose from today, but Glueck said hands down the most effective for your heart's health is a vegetarian diet.
"We know, for example, and have known for at least decades that a vegetarian diet, as followed in different continents and parts of the world compared to a non-vegetarian diet, is associated with significant reaction in heart attack and Type 2 diabetes. If you had to recommend a single diet to optimize a person's health in a lifetime, it would be vegetarian," he said.
Glueck does not recommend everyone follow a vegetarian diet, but there are practical steps people can take to avoid foods that trigger health issues.
Maintaining a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol is key, Glueck said.
- Restrict saturated fats. These are found in butter, lard, whole milk, ice cream, most rich cheeses and some cooking oils.
- Substitute mono and poly saturated fats. For example, substitute butter for tub margarine, for lard use a shortening made with mono or poly unsaturated fats, use skim milk instead of whole, sherbet or frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, etc.
- Reduce dietary cholesterol. You want to be prudent in your intake of meat, in particular no organ meats such as liver or pancreas, and avoid prepared meats like hot dogs, unless you know what are in them.
- Restrict your intake of red meat. Limit your intake of saturated fats in "red meats" by only having no more than one conventional serving five times a week.
- Avoid eggs. Glueck does recommend to patients not to eat them, but if you do, use a substitute like egg whites or egg beaters.
- Restrict, highly refined sweets. This includes candies, chocolate, syrup and refined carbs, such as doughnuts, cakes, etc.
Nutrition experts at The Jewish Hospital Cholesterol and Metabolism Center say some of the best "heart-healthy" foods include salmon, almonds, legumes, soy proteins such as tofu, non-fat Greek yogurt, protein-rich grains such as quinoa, berries, extra virgin olive oil and whole grains.
For more information on health programs at The Jewish Hospital Cholesterol and Metabolism Center or to obtain copies of recipes, call (513) 924-8250.