Heart healthy diet: Heart disease is one of the major killers of both men and women in the United States.
While certain lifestyle factors such as a steady weight and regular exercise are important for maintaining a healthy heart, the foods we choose consume only that much.
A healthy diet is one of your best weapons in the fight against heart disease and your feeling healthy. In fact, choosing a healthy heart diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 80% (helpguide.org). (Heart healthy diet: what you need to know)
When you don’t know where to start, it’s a great place to choose to make simple changes to your eating habits and nutrition. To help keep it all straight and understand the reasons behind the various nutrition recommendations, consider some of the following tips.
Pay attention to the type of fat you eat
Fat is essential to your diet; In other words you need it! However, there are types of fats that can negatively affect your heart health; In particular, trans-fats and saturated fats are the two types of fats that are of most concern.
These two types of fats can affect blood cholesterol levels by lowering HDL cholesterol (aka: good cholesterol) levels while increasing the level of LDL cholesterol (aka: bad cholesterol) in your blood.
When HDL and LDL cholesterol levels are not within normal limits or are disproportionate, this can cause excess cholesterol to accumulate in blood vessel walls, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. (Heart healthy diet: what you need to know)
Saturated fat foods include fatty beef, bacon, sausage, lamb, pork butter, cheese, and other dairy products made from whole or two-percent milk.
Trans-fat is both naturally occurring and made artificially. Many fried foods and packaged products contain high levels of trans-fat as well.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults limit consumption of saturated fat to five to six percent of their total calories. Trans fat consumption should be less than one percent of total calorie intake.
Say no to salt
Similar to fat, sodium is a mineral that is essential for life. Sodium is required for many physiological functions, including fluid volume, acid-base balance, and transmission of signals for muscle function.
However, too much sodium can pose a risk. When sodium is elevated in the bloodstream, it can increase water retention in the blood vessels leading to elevated blood pressure. (Heart healthy diet: what you need to know)
Over time, if hypertension is not resolved, it can put a lot of pressure on your heart, contributing to plaque formation and ultimately increasing your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Sodium is a tricky ingredient and gives a little more effort and attention to detail when trying to cut back. A great place to start when trying to cut back on sodium is by checking the nutrition facts label on the products. Companies are required by law to list the amount of sodium in their products, as well as other ingredients.
As mentioned earlier, sodium can be very high and added to foods, even without you being aware.
One place that sodium likes to hide is the food and dishes you order from the restaurant. In fact, more than 75% of sodium intake comes directly from processed and restaurant foods (wow!).
Therefore, to help reduce the intake of sodium for eating out or taking orders, request that your dishes be added without adding salt. (Heart healthy diet)
While these tips may ask, your sodium intake will decrease significantly, and your heart will be happy. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, which is about the size of a teaspoon of salt (for people with chronic illness and over the age of 50, the recommendation is even lower , Is 1,500 mg)!
Implementing these suggestions will not only help fulfill this recommendation, but will reduce your risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, colon cancer, kidney disease and more.
Skip vegetables (or fruits)
As many of us know, eating fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet. Low yield consumption is associated with poor health and an increased risk for major diseases. (Heart healthy diet: what you need to know)
In fact, it was estimated that 3.9 million deaths worldwide are attributed to insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables (2017). Therefore, the inclusion of fruits and vegetables as part of your daily diet is something that cannot be dismissed.
It is very easy to include fruits and vegetables! Whether they are frozen, canned, or fresh, each one will be sufficiently nutritious. If it has become difficult to include fruits and vegetables in your diet, start slow. (Heart healthy diet)
Try to increase your fruit or vegetable servings gradually throughout the day.
If you now only consume 1 serving of vegetables or fruits in one meal, then serve one at lunch and one at dinner. Slowly introduce more and more fruits and vegetables in your plate
The good thing about eating fruits and vegetables — all of them are good! The AHA recommends filling at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables to complete the recommended 4 of cups of fruits and vegetables per day.
Although this recommendation may seem impossible remember: all produce matters, meaning canned, fresh or frozen varieties can help you reach your goals, improve your diet and your health. (Heart healthy diet: what you need to know)
Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber – Oh My!
Let us first understand whole grains, refined grains and fiber. Whole grains contain whole kernels, which consist of 3 parts, providing all kinds of important nutrients such as bran, germ and endosperm, B vitamins, folic acid, fiber, iron and magnesium.
On the other hand, refined grains are ground and processed, which removes grains from the previously mentioned nutrients.
Dietary fiber comes in two forms: insoluble and soluble. Increased fiber consumption is associated with lower levels of “bad” cholesterol (remember: LDL cholesterol) and a lower risk for heart disease. Another bonus is that high fiber foods can help you feel full longer and are lower in calories.
Foods high in fiber generally also contain whole grains! Therefore, increasing your whole grain consumption means that you are also increasing fiber consumption. Why not kill two birds with one stone and switch to more whole grains!
Inclusion of whole grains can help improve blood cholesterol and lower risk for heart disease, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The AHA recommends that at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains and to consume 28 grams of dietary fiber per day. This includes foods such as whole grain bread, brown rice, whole oats, whole grain barley and more.
Be pixie with protein
For many of us, meat is a primary source of protein. However, popular meat sources — such as burgers, steak, and bacon, although high in protein, are the major sources of saturated fat (reminder: “bad” fat).
Excess consumption of such proteins can increase the risk for obesity, high cholesterol, plaque build-up and of course many health complications such as heart disease and stroke. (Heart healthy diet: what you need to know)
Changing the heart to healthy protein sources can help reduce these risks and aid in maintaining a heart healthy diet.
Changing “meat eating” habits can be difficult, although it is not impossible. An easy tip for managing protein and meat consumption is to treat meat as a part of a meal, rather than as a main event.
Try to limit the meat to 6 ounces a day, which is 2 servings (hint: single serving of meat = deck size of card).
As far as heart healthy protein sources are concerned, the AHA recommends the inclusion of various types of pork such as fish, shellfish, skinless poultry and trimmed meat meats. Beginning to include these alternative protein sources in your diet will help get you on the right track with your heart health. (Heart healthy diet: what you need to know)
Remember, it is about taking simple steps to protect your heart and overall health.
A heart healthy diet is going to be your biggest protection against heart disease and stroke. Start today by using these heart healthy tips and constantly assessing your nutrition.
Do not let heart disease rule your world, make the best changes with your lifestyle and health goals.