Balance Calories, Carbs, and Fat for Optimal Heart Health

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • There is so much information available in the media, on the internet, from your friends and family that it can be very confusing and overwhelming to sort out what's actually right and what you need to do to lower your cholesterol and achieve your health goals.


    I contacted dietitian Rosanne Rust to share some of her insight and knowledge in regards to calories, carbohydrates, and fat intake when it comes to promoting heart health, so you can get on track with your food choices.


    Here are four tips she shared:

    #1 Add carbs without compromising your weight

    Carbohydrates are an important component of our diets. Carbohydrates include grains, pasta, potatoes, all vegetables, and fruits. Milk also provides carbohydrate to the diet. These types of foods don't only provide fuel to our brains and muscles, but also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins and antioxidant Vitamins C and A. They also add bulk to the diet, and help keep your blood cholesterol levels in check.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    A heart healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables (5-10 servings daily!) and moderate portions of breads or grains. But "carbs" have been getting a bad reputation, because simple sound-bytes have somehow been misinterpreted to suggest that these food groups are poor choices, when in fact, most people need to eat more of these kinds of carbohydrate. The bottom line with carbohydrates: eat the right amount, don't avoid them. Include 5-8 servings from the bread/grain group (including some whole grains), and 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

    #2 Be aware of hidden fats in "high fiber" foods

    There are numerous snack foods on the market that boast fiber. Consumers have received the message that they should include more fiber in their diets, and those concerned about heart health may be well aware that fiber helps lower cholesterol levels. But did you know that many of these foods contain hidden fat? A dietary goal for lowering cholesterol levels includes reducing the saturated fat in your diet. Many of these types of bars have as much as 3 grams of saturated fat, so are they a good choice for you? And what about the calories?

    #3 Incorporate heart healthy fats

    You may often hear that you are to follow a 'low fat diet' to lower your blood cholesterol and lower your risk for heart disease. This is true, but some fats can actually improve your lipid profile, and should be included in proper amounts in your diet. Olive oil and nuts contain monounsaturated fats, and can easily be added to your dietary intake. Try these ideas:


    • Use one tablespoon of olive oil to sauté green peppers and onions to serve along with chicken fajitas
    • Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to brown rice and cook according to directions. Toast 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts, and toss into cooked rice.
    • Add toasted nuts to your green salad
    • Mix one can of white beans, 2 tablespoons olive oil, one clove minced garlic, dash of sea salt, in a food processor. Puree for a quick and healthy dip for vegetables or low fat pita chips.


  • #4 Get over your fear of "the bun"!

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    Do you ever eat your hamburger or sandwich without the bun? Why? Do you realize that the bun may only contain 220 calories and 2 grams of fat, while the hamburger may contain 550 calories and 40 grams of fat, or more? Still want to discard the bun?


    There has been so much media attention about high protein diets, that carbohydrates (including white buns and bread, and high fructose corn syrup) have been deemed evil and health-threatening. It's simply not true, and there is no science to suggest that white buns or HFCS have any direct correlation to being overweight. So get over your fear of the bun, and instead, reduce other sources of carbohydrate in your diet: eat less of all sugars, drink less juice, and eat less packaged snack foods (cookies, candy, crackers, pretzels, chips, dessert, even low fat granola bars). Replace these snacks with fruits and vegetables. The next time you are headed for a bag of pretzels, eat an apple instead. It's more filling, and it is more likely that you have not satisfied your fruit group servings for the day, as opposed to your bread group servings.

    By making this snack-time shift, you can enjoy your sandwich...with the bun.


    Be sure to sign up for the free Virtual Health Retreat where you can learn much more about balancing carbs and protein to promote heart health . . . and much more!


Published On: May 10, 2010