The statistics on heart disease in the United States are scary, with heart attack being the most common cause of death in the country. Preventing (and sometimes even reversing) heart disease is possible, and it starts with better nutrition. Here’s how to eat for heart health:
Make Veggies a Priority
Many of us learned to eat protein and carbs with a few vegetables on the side. But if we make veggies a priority and reduce the starches, we will be much more heart healthy. Focus on the greens – like spinach and romaine lettuce, and the orange vegetables – such as carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
Stay Away from Saturated Fats and Cholesterol
Instead of saturated fats and cholesterol, eat lots of non-fat or low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans and nuts. Replace butter with oil, preferably olive oil or canola (but be aware that all oils are high in calories). You’ll also want to stay away from store-bought cookies, cakes and chips which contain large amounts of trans fat from shortening or hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Eat Fish Rich in Omega-3
A heart healthy diet is one in which fish is consumed often (twice a week is optimal). Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are the best for your heart. Examples include salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel.
Consume Whole Grains
Your taste buds may be used to white flour, but whole grains can be just as tasty. They may take some getting used to, but you can add whole grain foods into your diet gradually until you almost eliminate white flour. Switch your bread to whole wheat and enjoy brown rice and oats.
Reduce White Sugar
Sugar itself isn’t good for your heart, and excessive amounts lead to weight gain, which can cause heart disease. Cut out sugary drinks and alcohol, and reduce white sugar foods such as desserts and sweet foods.
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease, so it’s best to stay away from salt. Limit sodium to about 2,300 mg a day. If you’re African-American, suffer from diabetes or chronic kidney disease, or are older than 50, you should limit your sodium even more – to about 1,500 mg a day.
Changing life-long eating habits may take some time, so don’t expect it to go smoothly and quickly. Instead, make small changes one at a time until you have improved your nutrition significantly. Modify recipes to make them healthier and look for new and delicious recipes that you can try out. It may take a while to get on the path to healthier eating, but your heart will thank you.