Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. The good news is heart disease can be prevented, in most cases, by adopting an active lifestyle and following a heart healthy diet. Here are 4 simple changes you can make to be a little kinder to your heart...
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables
Why: Fruits and vegetables are packed with soluble fiber, antioxidants, and minerals, which all play a role in reducing cardiac risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Top a bowl of whole-grain cereal with sliced bananas or berries.
- Keep your freezer stocked with frozen vegetable combinations and cook them with a health protein source for a quick stir-fry.
- Keep a fruit basket instead of a candy dish at your desk.
- Keep prewashed lettuce and sliced vegetables in the refrigerator to make quick salads.
2. Eat more whole grains
Why: Whole grains are a good source of fiber. A high-fiber diet has been linked to reduced blood cholesterol levels. Whole grains also provide longer-lasting energy than refined grains and are rich in heart-healthy nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin E, and minerals.
- Read food labels. Foods with 3 grams of fiber per serving are considered a good source of fiber. Also check the ingredient list for the word “whole” (i.e. whole grain or whole oats).
- Use a pressure cooker to cook whole grains more quickly.
- Watch out for extras — many whole grain snacks and cereals are high in sugar and fat.
3. Eat fewer foods that contain saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
Why: Fat has essential nutrients that keep your body running smoothly. It also adds flavor and texture to meals and helps you feel satisfied after eating. Unsaturated fats have been shown to be heart healthy while saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol may increase cardiac risk factors.
- Read food labels for saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fat content.
- Substitute olive oil for butter or margarine whenever possible.
- Eat poultry or fish most of the week and occasionally choose lean cuts of beef or pork (choice or select cuts with loin or round in the name) and remove fat before cooking.
- Choose low-fat dairy products.
4. Eat less salt
Why: Cutting back on salt is especially important for people with high blood pressure, heart failure, or people who tend to retain fluid. Less sodium means less fluid in your body and a lighter workload for your heart.
- Avoid adding salt to your food while cooking or at the table.
- Use spices or flavorful foods such as onions and garlic to season meals without adding salt.
- Avoid processed foods like canned foods, potato chips, pretzels, crackers, lunch meats, salted nuts, and frozen dinners, which are typically high in salt.