The foods you eat can have a major impact on your risk for heart disease. A heart healthy diet can be delicious! And, it’s not as challenging to stick to as you may think. Check out these 10 food recommendations you can follow to reduce your risk of heart disease.
1. Skimp on sugar and salt but not on flavor
Salt and sugar in large amounts can have an impact on your heart. Focus on flavoring foods with fresh herbs, spices, vinegars, and citrus, instead of salt. Read food labels and choose options that are less than 200 mg of sodium per serving. Limit fast and processed foods. Choose unsweetened options and sweeten naturally with honey or maple syrup. Use fruit purees in baking instead of sugar. Save salty snack foods and sugary desserts for a special treat.
2. Choose whole grains
Whole grains are rich in B vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them perfect for heart health. Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, and whole-wheat breads and pastas. Oatmeal in particular has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and be protective against heart disease. Don’t like the taste of whole grains? Start slowly by mixing together white and brown rice or purchase white whole wheat breads.
3. Eat the rainbow!
Fill half your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack. The richer and more vibrant the colors, the better. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are protective against heart disease. Make eating fruit and vegetables fun and easy by keeping freshly chopped crudité, undressed chopped salads, and bowls of roasted veggies in your fridge. Keep frozen fruits and vegetables in the freezer for easy cooking.
4. Choose lean meats, eggs, and low-fat dairy
When consumed in moderations, lean red meats, poultry, and low-fat dairy have a healthy amount of protein and saturated fat. To keep your saturated fat intake low, keep portions of meats and poultry to the size of the palm of your hand, stick to under 6 whole eggs per week, and limit cheese to small 1-2 oz portions.
5. Eat fish twice per week
Fish have heart healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s help to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, protect against cardiac rhythm disturbances, reduce triglycerides and easy inflammation. Instead of choosing meats higher in saturated fat, try eating fish twice per week to reduce your risk for heart disease. Don’t like fish? Start with a neutral choice like cod or tilapia and build from there—grilled fish tacos are a tasty option!
6. Snack on nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, which protect against heart disease. One palm full of any nut or seed is the perfect snack—rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Swap out butter on toast for nut butters. Have a variety of nuts and seeds in your diet to get the most benefits.
7. Choose more plant-based meals
Plant-based proteins like tofu, nuts, seeds, lentils, and beans are just as rich in protein as animal choices with the added benefit of more fiber, vitamins and minerals. Beans and lentils in particular have soluble fiber, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Include “Meatless Monday” into your weekly dinner repertoire. You will be amazed at how full and satisfied you feel.
8. Lighten up your cooking methods
It’s not just about what you eat, but how you cook it. Choose healthier cooking methods like baking, grilling, sautéing, roasting, braising, steaming. Limit frying and instead try an air-fryer to get that crunch.
9. Personalize your plate
Eat the foods that your family loves in a healthier way. Get creative! Try baking or grilling, instead of frying. Limit portion sizes by serving your favorite dish as a side instead of the entrée. Add more vegetables in or swap in whole grains. Have some fun in the kitchen, reinventing your family favorites.
10. It’s the overall pattern that matters
Eating an occasional French fry or slice of cake isn’t going to derail your heart health. It’s all about the overall pattern and the choices you make most often. Focus on eating healthy foods most often and save others for a special treat. Heart healthy foods are the best medicine to reduce your risk of heart disease.
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