Nutrition is one of the biggest ways we can have an impact on our heart health, but it can also be one of the hardest. No one wants to be told what they can and can’t eat, and certain foods can be so tempting. It’s important to remember though that heart attacks are the number one killer in the United States, and better nutrition is one of the best tools you have to fight this. Commit to eat for heart health with the tips below and stay strong! Your health depends on it.
- Control your portion size. The amount of food on your plate is often just as important as the actual food. Eating large portions often means you’re eating more calories than you should, and this can lead to gaining weight. Keep track of the actual serving size of foods, and use a small plate or bowl to control your portion size.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies provide you with vitamins and minerals you need. They’re also low in calories and high in fiber, which is good for your heart health. Stick to fresh fruits and veggies, low-sodium canned vegetables, and canned fruit packed in juice or water to be safe.
- Select whole grains. Whole grains offer fiber and nutrients and that help control your blood pressure and heart health. Replace things like white bread or regular pasta with whole wheat versions. Brown rice, high fiber cereal, and oatmeal are all great options too.
- Limit unhealthy fats. You want to avoid saturated and trans fats as these can raise your cholesterol levels and in turn your heart disease risk. Opt for things like olive oil, canola oil, vegetable and nut oils, margarine (trans fat free), nuts and seeds, and avocados instead of butter, bacon fat, and coconut, palm, cottonseed, and palm kernel oils.
- Choose low-fat protein sources. Things like lean meat, poultry (turkey, chicken, etc.), low-fat dairy products, and eggs are all really great examples of low-fat protein sources. Fish and legumes are also good options.
- Limit your salt intake. Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can then increase your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Start by reducing the amount of salt you use while cooking or at the table and opt for reduced salt versions of things like canned goods, condiments, etc.
- Plan ahead. Sticking to a healthy diet can be hard if you’re not used to it and you’re unprepared. Meal planning each week can help you to think carefully about your meals and make sure you’re sticking to a heart healthy diet.
- Indulge occasionally. No one is perfect, and you shouldn’t have to be. A candy bar or a few potato chips occasionally won’t completely ruin your heart health. Just make sure it doesn’t completely derail you from eating a heart healthy diet the rest of the time.