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What is Cardiovascular Disease?

As we celebrate American Heart Month, we wanted to put together something that would help to raise awareness of heart health issues in America. While browsing through pamphlets at the doctor’s office, you’ve probably seen the term cardiovascular disease. But, what does it mean? Of course, we all know that it has something to do with heart health. Which, let’s admit, for most of us is a concept we don’t think about until we have too. However, understanding and focusing on cardiovascular health before it becomes a problem can help prevent cardiovascular disease in the future.

The term cardiovascular disease simply refers to any disease that relates to the heart (cardio) or the blood vessels (vascular). It’s pretty simple once we dissect the words. Two of the most common forms of cardiovascular disease include heart disease and stroke, a couple of terms that we’re probably all a little more familiar with. They are also two of the three top reasons for death in developed countries.

NCES Artery SectionThe good news is that healthy eating habits combined with physical activity can improve our cardiovascular health and prevent many cardiovascular diseases. As we all know, our blood is pumped throughout our bodies through blood vessels. As cardiovascular health deteriorates, plaque begins to build up on the inside of our artery’s, making it more difficult for blood to travel through the body as it needs to. This concept is demonstrated in the Artery Section (product # 4143 in the NCES catalog). As this plaque builds up, different cardiovascular diseases begin to develop, which can lead to catastrophic diagnoses and events.

The effects of cardiovascular disease are nothing to ignore. If left untreated, cardiovascular disease can leave a person paralyzed, permanently disabled and can even lead to death. If you’re interested in learning more, or need to educate others about cardiovascular disease and its long-term effects, take a minute to view our Cardiovascular Nutrition DVD. You can preview and purchase the DVD here.

We hope you’ve learned a little more about cardiovascular disease than you knew before reading this blog! At NCES, our dietitians have hand-selected products that can be used for heart health education. Click here to browse this category. To join the conversation on heart health for American Heart Month, take a minute to share this blog with your readers. Together, we can fight against cardiovascular disease in America.

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Why It’s Okay to Enjoy Some Chocolate this Valentine’s Day

NCES Heart HealthHave you noticed all the reasons to talk about chocolate in February? Okay… forget about talking about it! Have you noticed all the reasons to EAT chocolate in February? First, of course, you have Valentine’s Day in just a couple of weeks. Then, there’s the fact that February is Chocolate Appreciation Month. But, to top it all off, February is American Heart Month. Have you heard? Chocolate actually contains some important ingredients that have been linked to heart health.

According to an article published by ABC News, chocolate contains Flavonoids, which are more highly concentrated in cocoa. These flavonoids serve as good antioxidants, “scavenging oxygen radicals responsible for damage and aging”. The next thing researchers set out to determine is “Are all chocolates created equal?” In order to answer this question, researchers divided study participants in to four groups, feeding two groups various dark chocolates and two groups various white chocolates. At the study completion, they concluded just what they had suspected. The groups consuming the dark chocolates saw the most heart healthy benefits, including lower blood sugar levels and better cholesterol ratios, due to the increased flavonoids in the darker chocolates.

So, what’s the conclusion? Don’t shy away from chocolate this February. Remember though to consume chocolate, just like other foods, in moderation. 1 ounce of dark chocolate contains about 170 calories. The heart healthy benefits are only worth it if you stay within your daily target for calorie consumption. Plus, it doesn’t take more than about an ounce a day to see the heart healthy benefits.

Don’t shy away from enjoying a glass of red wine with your dark chocolate too! There are a lot of theories right now about how red wine, in moderation, can benefit your heart health and help you stay at a healthy weight. But, that’s for another blog!

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Celebrate Heart Health Month: Which Oil is best for your Heart?

As I’m sure you’re well aware of by now, February is Heart Health Month. With all of the attention given these days to having the perfect figure, many people lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is not only to have a trim physique but also to have a healthy body, inside and out. Heart health is often a subject that gets ignored by most people when they are only concerned about the amount of calories and/or carbohydrates a certain food has. However, Cardiovascular Disease still takes the lives of 2150 Americans each day. (heart.org) One huge contributor to cholesterol levels are oils. Whether you’re cooking a dish, making your own salad dressing or baking some sweet treats, the type of oil that you use can have a direct impact on your cholesterol levels. So, how do you know which one to choose? Here are the top 3 most common oils and how they can affect your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

Olive Oil: In recent years, olive oil has gained in popularity, mainly due to its heart healthy properties. Because of its mix of antioxidants, olive oil can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol without changing your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Coconut Oil: Although there is still a lot of research out about the exact health benefits of coconut oil, there are some general conclusions that tend to be the same across the board. As we’ve touched on in previous articles, coconut oil is becoming hugely popular (and controversial) due to its touted benefits. It appears that coconut oil does increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in your body. However, it may also increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. So, do the pros outweigh the cons?

Vegetable/Canola Oil: Vegetable oil has long been a staple in American pantries. It’s the most commonly used cooking oil. Canola oil has only 7% saturated fat and works to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol. That’s really a good combination.

Although there are many choices when it comes to cooking oils, it’s always important to remember that different oils will impact your overall cholesterol levels, both good and bad. An increase in total cholesterol isn’t always a bad thing. What’s important to focus on is your ratio of LDL to HDL. If you are facing a serious heart problem like cardiovascular disease or other risk of stroke, it’s important to consult a doctor about how to manage your diet. However, if you’re someone looking to get your whole body in shape, not just your outside appearance, start by paying attention to your heart health.

Are you a dietitian or educator looking to teach your patients about heart health? NCES offers a full line of heart healthy educational tools, including the “Busting the Myths about Fats: Saturated Fat” and “Busting the Myths about Fats: Monounsaturat Fat” tear pads.

heart health

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5 Unique Fruits and Veggies to Intrigue You

With the USDA’s new MyPlate, there has been a surge of attention given to the importance of a balanced diet. As demonstrated on the plate, a balanced diet consists of a large amount of fruits and vegetables. The problem is, we get it in our heads that we don’t like certain foods. We remember brussel sprouts from our childhood, and can’t get past that memory of forcing them down so that Mom and Dad would let us have dessert. The truth is that there are a lot more options than just brussel sprouts and beets. We’ve decided to put together a list of the Top 5 Fruits and Vegetables you’ve probably never tried, and the health benefits of each one.

  1. Paw Paw (fruit) This fruit is easily digestible and aids in the digestion of other foods. It is rich in vitamin A and C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and soluble vegetable fiber. It is enjoyed best when eaten fresh and ripe.
  2. Persimmons (fruit) This delicate oriental fruit is native to china.  It spread to Japan very long ago and later was introduced to California during the middle of the nineteenth century.  They are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that are vital for good health.
  3. Dragon Fruit (fruit) This exotic fruit contains large amounts of Vitamin C. Not only that, the vitamin C in dragon fruit is more easily digested than a vitamin c supplement. It is also said, but not proven, that Dragon Fruit aids in controlling blood sugar levels in those with Type 2 Diabetes (Note: This is not a sufficient medical plan for controlling diabetes)
  4. Purple Dragon Carrot (vegetable) This unique carrot has a sweet flavor, making it great for salads and for juicing. Carrots help reduce cholesterol, fight infections and stabilize blood sugar. High in nutritional value, but low in calories, carrots play an important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  5. Sweet Baby Broccoli (vegetable) Broccoli provides a high amount of vitamin C, which aids with iron absorption in the body, and fiber, which enhances the gastrointestinal tract. They can help prevent the development of cataracts, and also ease the symptoms of the common cold. The folic acid in broccoli helps women sustain normal tissue growth and is often used as a supplement when taking birth control pills and during pregnancy. The potassium in broccoli aids those battling high blood pressure, while a large amount of calcium helps combat osteoporosis.

Are you ready to go out and try all these great new fruits and vegetables? Each of them has a unique flavor, as well as all the health benefits mentioned. So, give  ‘em all a try. And, be sure to let us know what you think on our Facebook page.

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Heart Healthy Breakfast Burrito

“According to new nutrition data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), eggs are lower in cholesterol than previously thought. The USDA-ARS recently reviewed the nutrient composition of standard large eggs, and results show the average amount of cholesterol in one large egg is 185 mg, 14 percent lower than previously recorded. The analysis also revealed that large eggs now contain 41 IU of vitamin D, an increase of 64 percent.” (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216020.php)

Given this recent data, an egg per day is considered a healthy addition to the average American’s diet. So, check out this great breakfast burrito and enjoy all the health benefits an egg a day has to offer.

INGREDIENTS

2 whole eggs

4 egg whites

1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

4 tablespoons canned chopped green chilis

4 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

2 whole-grain tortilla (6. Inch)

INSTRUCTIONS

Scramble eggs in a skillet with beans and chili’s over medium heat. After eggs are cooked, add cheese to the skillet. Continue cooking until cheese is melted. Divide mixture in half and wrap in to tortillas. (2 Servings)

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5 Tips for Setting Fitness Goals

The month of May is National Physical Fitness Month. So, to recognize this, we thought that we might give you some tips on easy methods of working out, that won’t take a bite out of your daily schedule.

Current physical activity guidelines state that 150 minutes of physical activity a week is required to keep you fit and healthy. To put it plainly, a half an hour for five days out of the week, while paired with a healthy diet, is usually enough to keep you away from becoming overweight.

Fitness and physical activity are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it doesn’t always have to get in the way of your everyday life. By separating those workout periods into ten minutes, or even five minute blocks, you can spread out your physical activity enough to make the time easy to find.

But, fitness doesn’t happen overnight, and more than one of us have made a New Year’s resolution, only to watch it fade away within a month or two. Taking things gradually can help maintain a healthy lifestyle, and one way to partition your fitness into manageable chunks, is to set goals.

A few tips to follow when setting goals for yourself:

  • Make the goal challenging, but achievable. Too easy and you’ll become unmotivated, too hard and the same thing will happen.
  • Make it a variation of short-term and long-term goals. Being able to hit marks along the way to your bigger goals can be just as rewarding as the bigger goals themselves.
  • Have progression in your goals. Whether adding time or intensity, having progression built into your goals makes it more achievable and positively enforcing.
  • Set your exercises according to your lifestyle and what you’re comfortable with. Getting outside of your comfort zone is basic, to a point. If you don’t like it to start, you never will.
  • Reward yourself when you reach your goals. Avoid using food as a reward though. And make sure that the reward matches the goal. If it’s a big goal, give yourself a big reward!

These tips and more, along with short, easy-to-do exercises can be found in the book, “Fit In 5” by Greg Whyte.  This book, and many more can be found at www.ncescatalog.com and in our catalog.

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CBS and FDA Warn Against Too Much Salt

Yesterday on the CBS Early Show, Dr. Jennifer Ashton showed Americans the dangers of eating too much salt, and to clarify a misunderstanding concerning the Institute of Medicine and the Food & Drug Administration.

Contrary to popular belief, the FDA will not be cracking down and limiting the salt in American products and the salt intake of Americans. The Institute of Medicine however, did ask the FDA to help create awareness of the problems with having too much salt causes.

The average American consumes 1 ½ tablespoons of salt each day, which is over twice the recommended amount. Although the health community has known for 40 years that there has been at the very least a casual link between salt and heart disease, but it’s now a very real connection and cause for concern.

It’s estimated that by reducing the average American’s salt intake by just one teaspoon a day could save over 150,000 lives from heart disease.

No one is asked people to put away the salt shaker. Since only about 23% of an American’s salt come from the added salt you sprinkle on your meal, it’s less of a concern. Where the real trouble lies is in the processed foods that you eat, where the other 77% of your salt lies.

Watch what you eat, and keep an eye on the grams of salt and sodium in that lunch you’re having. It might just save your life.

Check out the video here!  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6417471n&tag=cbsnewsTwoColUpperPromoArea