Eating Heart Healthy
Eating Heart Healthy
Eating healthy can be a challenge. Life is busy and unhealthy food can be so tempting and convenient, not to mention addicting. Most of us consider the effects that eating unhealthy food can have on our waistlines, but we shouldn’t forget about the effects the foods we eat can have on our hearts.
Here are 8 simple steps we can take to making better choices for our hearts and preventing heart disease:
- Limit Unhealthy Fats and Cholesterols. Limiting how much saturated and trans fats we eat is an important step to reducing blood cholesterol and lowering the risk of coronary and artery disease. High blood cholesterol levels can lead to buildups of plaques in arteries which can increase risk of a heart attack or stroke. Butter, margarines, and shortenings are examples of foods containing a lot of saturated fats. When you’re looking at the list of ingredients in something take notice is it says “partially hydrogenated” this is a good indicator of trans fat. The American Heart Association offers these guidelines:
- Saturated Fats: Less than 7% of total daily calories should be saturated fats or less than 14 g for a 2000 calories-a-day diet.
- Trans Fats: Less than 1% of total daily calories or 2g for a 2000 calories-a-day diet.
- Cholesterol: Less than 300 mg a day for healthy adults and less than 200 mg a day for adults with high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Eat More Fruits and Vegetables. Try planning meals containing a lot of fruits and vegetables, keeps vegetables and fruits chopped in the fridge for easy and convenient snacks or on the counter to remind you to eat them.
- Control Portion Size. When portion sizes are too large its easier to consume for fats, calories and cholesterol than you should have. Most restaurant portions are larger than anyone needs. Pay attention to the portion sizes suggested for different foods and try to stick to it. For example a single serving of pasta is about half a cup or a serving of meat is about 2 to 3 ounces.
- Select Whole Grains. Whole grains are a great source of fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and promote heart health.
- Choose Low-Fat Protein. Lean meat, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy and egg white are great proteins that are low in fat.
- Reduce Sodium. Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The Department of Agriculture recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day which is about 1 teaspoon.
- Plan Meals Ahead. Creating daily menus can help you select foods that are better for your health. Preparing healthy meals takes more planning than many instant or processed foods.
- Allow Yourself an Occasional Treat. Everyone needs a treat sometimes and as long as you’re making healthy choices most of the time a healthy treat now and then won’t hurt anything.
Here’s a list of some great Heart Healthy Foods:
- Black or Kidney Beans
- Red Wine
- Brown Rice
- Soy Milk
- Sweet Potatoes
- Dark Chocolate (70% or higher in cocoa content)
- Red Bell Peppers
Any foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are going to be great choices for you and your heart.