For the first time in history, the American Heart Association (AHA) has set a limit on trans fatty acid intake. Published on the web site of the Circulation Journal on June 19, this 16-page Diet and Lifestyle Recommendation report sets goals for heart disease risk reduction as well as practical suggestions for reaching those goals. This 2006 revision is meant to replace the old guidelines, which were released in 2000.
Summary of the new AHA Heart Diet Recommendations
- Vegetables at least 4 servings a day
- Fruits at least 4 servings a day
- Grains choose whole grains, high fiber
- Fish at least 2 servings a week
- Fats Aim:
- cholesterol: <300 mg
- trans fat: <1% of total kcal
- saturated fat: <7% of total kcal
- Salt use little or no salt; aim at 2300 mg of sodium daily (~1 tsp of salt)
- Sugar minimize sugary foods and drinks to < 5 servings a week
- Alcohol limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks a day for men, 1 drink a day for women
Editor’s Note: New AHA Diet Recommendation is Overdue
This new diet recommendation is long overdue. The AHA released a new set of heart disease prevention guidelines one month ago in the same journal, suggesting that LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). However, no practical diet recommendations were made on how to achieve this level.
This new recommendation is consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One new recommendation made by AHA is to limit trans fat to less than one percent of total calories. For an average adult consuming a 2,000 kcal diet, that means no more than two grams of trans fat a day!
Coincidently, KFC was sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) last week over their extensive use of frying oil containing trans fat. CSPI claimed that a three-piece meal at KFC contains a startling 15 grams of trans fat. That is seven times more than what AHA recommends!
Instead of counting fats, sugar and calories from the foods you eat, try adopting the following practices:
- Use liquid vegetable cooking oil in home cooking.
- Use cooking methods with little or no oil; limit deep frying at home.
- Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
- When dining out, order dishes prepared with little oil or sauce.
- Always read the Nutrition Facts label when comparing products; check out information about sodium, saturated fats and trans fat in particular.
- Check the ingredient list and look out for ingredients such as hydrogenated oil (high in trans fat) as well as coconut and palm oil (high in saturated fats).
- Watch for added sugar such as sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated fruit juice, maltose, dextrose and honey.
To treat high blood cholesterol, the National Cholesterol Education Program NCEP recommends following the TLC diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet). To lower blood pressure, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends following the DASH Diet.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.