A new opportunity
avoid processed foods as much as possible. They can be unnecessarily high in sodium and filled with artery clogging saturated fats. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and preparing foods from scratch are better tasting alternatives.
Too much sodium will kill you. Not enough sodium will also kill you. Finding a happy balance is the hard part. The NHLBI recommends 2300 milligrams. That’s roughly 1 measly teaspoon a day. By avoiding processed foods you will eliminate a surprising amount of sodium from your diet. Read the labels and do the math if you like. I prefer to keep a salt bowl near the stove. This allows me to add a pinch or two when cooking. Better yet it gives the cook full control. Canned tomato sauce has an average of 601 milligrams in a half of cup. My tomato sauce recipe not only tastes better, but gives you the choice of how much salt to add. So the more you cook, the more control you have. When cooking, be sure to wait and add the salt just before serving and in moderation. When sprinkled on top it makes the flavors pop so you will get maximum bang for your deflated buck.
Shop the farmer’s market. You happen to have some very good ones near you. The first is the Baltimore Farmer’s market which is downtown under the expressway (of all places) on Sundays from 9 to 12. Another is on Waverly on Saturdays and a third is the the Amish Market in Hunt Valley which is on Thursdays from 11 to 2. Look for organic foods because, in my opinion, they taste better; and if they taste better, you are more likely to enjoy them. Grab a peach, a pear or an apple for a snack instead of diet soda or a bag of chips. As a common side effect, you will notice that foods good for you begin to taste better; and the better they taste, the more you choose them over processed foods and so on.
But all that said, be sure to splurge every now and then. Enjoy dessert once a week. Maybe on Saturdays. Enjoy a steak, snuggle up to a little ice cream, sneak a little chopped liver — every once in a while. Enjoying your meals will make it easier to watch what you are eating.
Take all the above advice in moderation. Enjoy your life and your meals just as have doing for the past 83 years. In the immortal words of George and Ira Gershwin “no, no, they can’t take that away from me.”
Finally, I have chosen to make this an open letter so that other people who have either suffered a heart attack or simply desire to avoid one can take inspiration in your journey. Furthermore, I urge both you and anyone reading this consult with their doctor and/or nutritionist in tailoring a diet to your specific medical needs. I have included some useful links (supplied to me by your nutritionist) at the bottom of this article. As for your cooking questions — you have a valuable resource in GreatGrub. Simply ask your questions in our new Healthy Hearts forum and I will see to it that you get an intelligent answer.
Enjoy your new opportunity. A wealth of good foods and quality meals awaits you. This letter is long, but the change is easy.
Read these. I write about cooking and these organizations write about dealing with heart disease.
- The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet
- American Heart Association- Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations (pdf download)
- The Mayo Clinic- Sodium: Are you getting too much?
As a follow up I am adding a link to a Los Angeles Times article titled Getting on with life after a heart attack. This story examines the critical importance of cardiac rehabilitation. Shockingly only 18% of heart attack survivors had even one session despite mounting evidence that cardiac rehabilitation can reduce the risk of death from a second heart attack by as much 30%.