Eat Heart Healthy with these hints and tips
Regular exercise, a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle can do a lot to keep your heart healthy but equally as important is the food you eat. In fact, studies show that a heart healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by up to 80%. By definition a heart healthy diet is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium, high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and includes Omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats and low fat proteins. It is recommended that you eat as many whole foods and fresh produce as possible, you want your food to be in its natural form – as close to how it comes out of the ground or off a plant as possible – the less processed the better! Eat heart healthy with the below tips and guidelines for choosing healthy fats, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Fats & Cholesterol
Choosing foods lower in fat and cholesterol can help to lower your cholesterol level and risk for heart disease. It is important to know what kind of fats you are eating. Eat healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats found in avocados and olive oil and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and seeds. Avoid saturated fats and when at all possible eliminate all trans fats. When purchasing non-fat or low fat products be aware that the words “partially hydrogenated” can mean trans fats are included. Keep in mind all types of fat are typically high in calories and follow these American Heart Association guidelines of how much fat and cholesterol to include in your diet:
Type of fat
|Less than 7% of your total daily calories, or less than 14 g of saturated fat if you follow a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet|
|Less than 1% of your total daily calories, or less than 2 g of trans fat if you follow a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet|
|Less than 300 mg a day for healthy adults; less than 200 mg a day for adults with high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol or those who are taking cholesterol-lowering medication|
Fruits & Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are not only full of antioxidants and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals but also low in calories making them truly heart healthy. In fact, berries of any kind are great for your heart because they are full of anti-inflammatory properties. Eat a variety of colors and aim for 5 to 9 servings or approximately 4½ cups of fruits and vegetables everyday. That may sound like a lot but if you add 1 fruit and veggie into every meal today you will be a lot closer to the goal. Add berries to your cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, put a slice of cucumber, tomato or pepper on your sandwich at lunchtime or keep in-season fruits and veggies cut up and washed for an easy to grab healthy snack!
Whole grains are good sources of fiber and help to play a role in regulating blood pressure as well as heart health. Get more whole gains by substituting white, refined processed products with whole-wheat flour, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta or oatmeal. When purchasing whole grain products be sure to read the nutritional labels and select only the items that list whole-wheat or whole-grain first.
Including flaxseeds, also high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, in your diet is another easy way to increase your whole grain intake. Simply sprinkle flaxseeds in yogurt, in a smoothie, on a salad or in cereal.
Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy products are some of the best sources of protein. Be sure to choose low fat items such as skinless chicken and low-fat daily products as opposed to organ meet, fatty marbled meet, egg yolks or bacon. Cold water fish such as salmon is an excellent choice. Legumes; including beans, peas and lentils, are full of fiber as well as a good sources of protein and because they contain less fat and no cholesterol they are a great protein substitute for meat.
Consuming too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. It can be challenging to reduce your sodium intake because salt is in virtually all packaged and premade food and most condiments. Whenever possible opt for low sodium products and avoid using table salt at meals and when cooking. The Department of Agriculture recommends the following amounts for daily sodium intake:
- Healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, that’s about a teaspoon
- People age 51 or older and people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day
Always read the nutritional labels, pay attention to serving sizes, eat home cooked meals as often as possible and when purchasing packaged foods look for the American Heart Association Label. Be sure you are eating as many of the top 25 Heart Healthy Foods according to WebMD as possible.
Salmon – Flaxseed (ground) – Oatmeal – Black or Kidney Beans – Almonds – Walnuts – Red wine – Tuna – Tofu – Brown rice – Soy milk – Blueberries – Carrots – Spinach – Broccoli – Sweet potato – Red bell peppers – Asparagus – Oranges – Tomatoes – Acorn squash – Cantaloupe – Papaya – Dark chocolate – Tea