Local residents were treated recently to a free health seminar titled "Eating Healthy: benefits of Diet Modification" held as part of the St. Luke's Hospital - Miners Campus regular Health Talks held at the Tamaqua YMCA.

"Changing the way you eat can reduce many of your risk factors," said Joseph Paluck, MS, St. Luke's Clinical Exercise Physiologist. "It can lower your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight."

"Learning how to incorporate healthier foods into your diet to meet your nutritional needs can prevent disease or help manage chronic health conditions," stressed Paluck.

Discussions during the talk revolved around eating less fat, eating less salt and eating more fiber.

"Eating less fat is one of the best things you can do for your heart," said Paluck. "Start by finding out which fats are better to use. Then always try to use a little as you can."

Paluck pointed out a number of benefits of eating less fat. Cutting down on the fat you eat can lower your blood cholesterol levels. This may help prevent clogged arteries from buildup of plaque. A low-fat diet can help you lose excess weight. "Doing so can lower your blood pressure, reduce your chances of getting diabetes and reduce your risk for stroke or some cancers," said Paluck.

He added that "unsaturated fat" is mostly healthy, stressing that if you must add fat, to use unsaturated fat. Unsaturated plants come from plants. They include olive, canola, peanut, corn, avacados, safflower and sunflower oils. Liquid (sqeezable) margarine is also mostly unsaturated fat. Paluck mentioned that unsaturated fat in moderate amounts can even be good for your heart.

"Avoid eating saturated fat becuase is raises your blood cholestrol level," said Paluck. Most saturated fat comes from animals. Foods such as butter, lard, cheese, cream, whole milk and fatty cuts of meat are high in saturated fat. Some oils, such as palm and coconut oils, are also saturated fats.

"Trans fat is least healthy," mentioned Paluck. "Even if it isn't listed on the food label, look for it in the ingredients in the form of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils." They are usually found in snack foods, shortening, french fries and stick margarines.

Paluck also talked about the importance of understanding good food choices. "Think in terms of your food choices throughout the day, from breakfast to bedtime, "said Paluck. "All foods, including your favorites, can fit into a healthy eating plan." Paluck pointed out four related key points, which he added are the basics of good nutrition. Some tips included eating a balanced mix of different types of food. "Make half your plate fruits and vegetables," said Paluck. "Then fill your plate with one quarter protein and one quarter whole grains."

He continued by stressing the importance of choosing a wide variety of foods of different colors. He also emphasized finding an eating plan that fits your schedule and taste; as well as eating a high-fiber diet and avoiding too much of any one food.

Their next free Health Talk, titled "Preventative Medicine," is scheduled for tomorrow starting at 9:30 a.m. and will be led by Andrea Ulshafer, PA-C St. Luke's Rural Health Centers. No registration is needed.