Food is medicine and most people are aware which foods are bad for our health and can cause heart disease that can lead to heart failure. Heart failure is a serious disease and if it escalates, you may be in need of a heart transplant. To avoid such an invasive procedure, it’s important to know which foods to incorporate into your diet and which to avoid. Here are 8 heart-healthy tips to follow so you can do your best to keep your body happy and healthy.
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables
It is recommended that the average adult should eat at least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. Not only are fruits and vegetables a good source of vitamins and minerals, they also are low in calories and rich in dietary fibers. Eating more vegetables and fruits will help you cut back on higher calorie food such as meat and cheese, because you can eat more of them while consuming less calories, keeping you fuller for longer. It has been shown that vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables can reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
Incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet is easy. Try choosing meals that already include them such as a stir fry, stew or soup. Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables work as well.
2. Watch your portions
How much you’re eating is just as important as what you’re eating. Many of us go for seconds, overstuff our plates and eat until we feel so stuffed that we can barely breathe. To combat this, try following the serving suggestion guide on the back of your food labels. These portion sizes are based on the standard diet and should be just the right amount of food for anyone. For example, if you’re making pasta and the serving size is 1/3 to 1/2 cup, try sticking to that amount.
As always, it’s important to eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods.
3. Limit unhealthy fat consumption
“Bad fat” or saturated and trans fats can increase cholesterol levels and increase your risk of developing heart disease. Foods that are high in “bad fat” include butter, margarine, shortening, beef or pork fat, and high fat dairy products. Instead, try eating foods with the “good fats” such as nuts, avocado, and peanut butter.
4. Choose Whole Grains
Whole grains refers to grains that are eaten in their “whole” form as opposed to refined grains which are milled, a process that strips the grains of the nutrients and fiber. Whole grains include rice, oats, barley, quinoa, wheat and corn. Whole grains play a role in regulating your blood pressure and heart health because they include fiber and other important nutrients.
Try buying whole wheat bread instead of white and limiting the amount of cakes, donuts and other desserts. Oatmeal, whole grain pasta, and high fiber cereal are also other good options to include in your diet to eat more whole grains.
5. Reduce sodium consumption
Eating a lot of sodium can increase your blood pressure and contribute to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of salt). Be wary of canned and processed foods, as that’s what contains a very high amount of sodium. Instead, eat fresh foods and try cooking your own stews and soups so that you know exactly what ingredients are going into it and how much.
6. Eat lean protein
Lean meats have a relatively low fat content. Skinless chicken and turkey are the best lean meat options, as well as fish such as salmon. It is recommended to eat more lean meats because they are a good source of protein and have fewer calories than non-lean meats. Other good, healthy proteins to choose are legumes, soybeans, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and tofu.
7. Plan your grocery list
When walking into the grocery store with no list or plan, we tend to overbuy and buy unnecessary items. Creating a list or a daily menu will help you go into the store with a purpose. When selecting foods for each meal and snack, make sure to prioritize vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Having a variety of options will make your meals and snacks more interesting and will help you avoid binge eating. By planning your list, you’ll not only be able to plan out your meals for the week, but you’ll also save money doing so.
8. Don’t forget to treat yourself
We all deserve a treat every now and again. Ice cream, a donut or a candy bar will not derail your diet and make you lose progress towards your goals. However, it’s important to eat these items in moderation. What’s important is that you eat healthy foods 80% of the time, with the other 20% given towards some of our favorite snacks and desserts.
By following these tips you’ll be able to keep your heart healthy and live sustainably. By planning your meals and choosing healthier options, you’ll keep your heart happy and body healthy.