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Take Heart Articles
Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
It’s your birthday. Time to break out the cake and ice cream. Wait a minute. Didn’t your doctor suggest you cut back? Better replace that chocolate cake with the big, gooey flowers with something a little less fatty.

Even though it’s your birthday, unless you adopt a heart-healthy diet that’s low in fat, cardiovascular disease will pose a threat to your body and your life.

“Changing our diet is one of the most difficult things we can do,” says Palmetto Health Heart Hospital dietitian Roberta Jupp. “But it’s absolutely essential for heart patients.”

“If you think life ends with the beginning of a heart-healthy, low-fat diet, think again. Each patient in the hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program is provided with an individualized nutrition plan that takes into account his or her medical history, medical condition, lifestyle habits and dietary preferences.

“We look at what restaurants people go to, what they eat at home, and if they prepare homemade foods or pop a pre-made dish into the microwave,” Jupp says. “All of these details are important when creating a custom diet plan.”

Don Mohr, a Palmetto Health cardiac rehab patient for the past five years, got a customized diet plan after undergoing open-heart surgery.

“I went in for a routine physical one week and failed a stress test. A week later I was having quadruple bypass surgery,” recalls Mohr.

After his surgery, Mohr says, everything changed. “I used to eat anything that came along. I had my last sausage biscuit five years ago.”

Now Mohr follows his diet plan religiously. He has learned to read labels and make more prudent eating decisions. “I know exactly what my body needs: a low-fat diet with lots of vegetables. And I stick to it. As a result, I feel stronger and healthier than ever before.” Mohr has also lost 35 pounds and has kept it off.

Following a heart-healthy diet takes discipline, but don’t think you can never have a piece of chocolate cake again.

“If you want a piece of cake one night, plan your meals accordingly throughout the day to budget it in,” says Jupp. “As long as you get the right balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins appropriate for your needs, you can indulge once in awhile.”

Reduce your intake of saturated fats.
Your total fat intake should not be more than 30 percent of your daily calorie intake. Saturated fat intake should be less than 7 percent. Polyunsaturated fat should be 10 percent of your daily calories. This means you should cut back on butter, fatty meats, full-fat salad dressings, foods prepared with solid fats including margarine, and other high-fat foods.

Consume monounsaturated fats.
Vegetable oils like canola, olive and peanut, and certain nuts including walnuts, almonds and peanuts, may increase your high-density lipoprotein, also known as “good” cholesterol.

Watch your carbs.
Despite popular diet trends, carbohydrates are good for you. Just make sure you choose fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cut out foods containing refined sugars like candy and cookies.

Be a protein queen—or king.
Eat fish at least twice a week, such as those high in omega-3 fatty acids like mackerel, lake trout, sardines, fresh tuna and salmon. Fat-free and low-fat dairy products, as well as beans, skinless poultry, soy-based meat substitutes and lean meats also are good choices.