LC Arisman, Certified Health Navigator
Healthy hearts start in the kitchen. Exercise is important too, but no amount of exercise can buffer an unhealthy diet. Whether we’re looking for a heart healthy diet, a diet to prevent diabetes, or one for weight loss, several components remain the same.
It’s simple and it’s true. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains are all part of a healthy balanced diet. When we hear “plant-based” we often think “vegetarian” or “vegan,” but “plant-based” really means mostly plants. In other words, the foundation of our diet and our health is built on plant intake. More vegetables, more fruits, more whole grains, and more legumes. If we fill half our plate with fruits and vegetables, and then one quarter with a whole grain, that is a plant-based plate, even if there’s some fish or chicken on there too.
What about the sugar in fruit?
When fruit is intact and whole, the fiber present helps mitigate the effects of the sugar. Basically, if it’s in its original packaging (as grown), it’s fine. This time of year, it can be challenging to find a variety of fruits and vegetables. Opt for frozen over canned and check labels for added salts and sugars. Yes, some sneaky food manufacturers will add sugar to frozen fruit.
Whole Grain Trickery
Whole grains are pretty wonderful— the fiber, the nutrients, the protein (YES! There is protein in many whole grains). They are filling which helps with weight loss, but they also regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are main components of heart disease. Whole grains aren’t magical, but they’re pretty darn close. However, there are some sand traps that can get us if we aren’t paying attention.
A grain is an edible plant seed. A whole grain is that plant seed fully intact with bran, germ, and endosperm. The difference between white rice and brown rice is the scrubbing and removal of the bran, which removes a lot of the nutrients and fiber (and most of the benefits of grains). White rice, like white flour is NOT a whole grain because components have been removed to make it more shelf-stable.
When it comes to whole grains, aim for actual grains themselves, like brown rice, corn, barley, farro, and oats. Whole grain PRODUCTS like bread, tortillas, and pastas are a better option than their refined counterparts, but beware of the labels! A “whole grain” bread needs only to use 51% of whole grain flour to be labeled as “whole grain.” If you see “enriched flour,” skip it. It’s been enriched because when the bran was stripped away, so were the nutrients. “Enriched” means processed or refined. Truly whole grains do not need enrichment. So, check those ingredients lists and select 100% whole wheat flour. Or better yet, stick to the grain-as-grown.
Keep it simple and stay consistent. Take good care of that heart!
Weight Watchers® Beyond the Scale program delivers our most holistic and personal approach ever. Move beyond the number on the scale, so you can get healthier, live happier, and lose weight: All available right here at Parkpoint! No need to find a location…we have a weekly meeting right here on-site at Parkpoint Sonoma. Come check it out Thursdays at 7am on the second floor.