5 Of Cups And The World As Feelings Heart Healthy Diet: What You Need to Know

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Heart Healthy Diet: What You Need to Know

Heart disease is among the leading killers of both men and women in the United States. While some lifestyle factors, such as maintaining a stable weight and regular exercise, are important for maintaining a healthy heart, the foods we choose to eat matter just as much. A healthy diet is one of your best weapons in fighting heart disease and feeling your healthiest. In fact, choosing to eat a heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 80% (helpguide.org).

When you don’t know where to start, making simple changes to your eating habits and nutrition is a great place to start. To keep it all in order and understand the reasons behind the different nutritional recommendations, consider some of the following tips.

Pay attention to the type of fats you eat

Fat is essential to your diet; in other words, you need it! However, there are types of fat that can negatively affect your heart health; specifically, trans fats and saturated fats are the two types of fat of greatest concern. These two types of fat can affect blood cholesterol levels by lowering HDL cholesterol levels (aka: good cholesterol) while raising LDL cholesterol (aka: bad cholesterol) in your blood. When HDL and LDL cholesterol levels are not within the normal range or are excessive, it can cause excess cholesterol to collect in the walls of blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Foods containing saturated fat include fatty beef, bacon, sausage, lamb, lard, cheese, and other dairy products made with whole or two percent milk.

Trans fatty acids occur naturally and artificially. Many fried foods and packaged foods also contain high amounts of trans fats.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults limit their consumption of saturated fat to five to six percent of their total calories. Consuming trans fats should make up less than one percent of total caloric intake.

Say no to salt

Sodium, like fat, is a mineral necessary for life. Sodium is needed for many bodily functions, including fluid volume, acid-base balance, and signal transmission for muscle function. However, too much sodium can pose risks. When sodium in the bloodstream is elevated, it can increase water retention in the blood vessels and cause increased blood pressure. Over time, if high blood pressure goes untreated, it can put a lot of strain on your heart, contribute to plaque build-up, and ultimately increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Sodium is a tricky ingredient and requires a little more effort and attention to detail when trying to reduce. A great place to start when you’re trying to cut back on sodium is by checking nutrition labels on products. Companies are required by law to list the amount of sodium in their products, as well as other ingredients. As mentioned earlier, sodium can be sneaky and added to foods in large amounts without you realizing it.

One of the places where sodium likes to hide is in the foods and dishes you order from a restaurant. In fact, over 75% of sodium intake comes directly from processed and restaurant foods (wow!). Therefore, to help reduce your sodium intake, when you choose to eat out or order food, don’t ask for added salt in your meals.

Although these tips may seem challenging, your sodium intake will be significantly reduced and your heart will be happy. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about the size of a teaspoon of salt (the recommendation is even lower, 1,500 milligrams, for people with chronic diseases and over 50) ! Implementing these tips will not only help you meet this recommendation, but reduce your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease, and more.

Don’t Skip the Vegetables (or Fruits)

As many of us know, eating fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet. Reduced consumption of produce is associated with poor health and an increased risk of serious illness. In fact, it was estimated that 3.9 million deaths worldwide are attributed to insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption (2017). Therefore, the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the daily diet is something that cannot be dismissed.

Incorporating fruits and vegetables is very easy! Whether they are frozen, canned or fresh – each of them will be nutritious enough. If incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet has been difficult, start slowly. Try to gradually increase your portions of fruit or vegetables throughout the day. If you now only eat 1 serving of vegetables or fruit per meal, add a portion at lunch and another at dinner. Slowly introducing more and more fruits and vegetables to your plate will make this tip less overwhelming.

A good thing about eating fruits and vegetables – they are all good! The AHA recommends filling at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables to meet the recommended 4 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Although this recommendation may seem impossible – remember: all products count, which means that canned, fresh or frozen varieties can help you achieve your goals, improve your diet and your health.

Whole grains, refined grains and dietary fiber – Oh my!

Let’s first understand whole grains, refined grains and fiber. Whole grains contain the entire kernel, which includes 3 parts, the bran, the germ, and the endosperm, which offer all kinds of important nutrients like B vitamins, folic acid, fiber, iron, and magnesium. On the other hand, refined grains have been ground and processed, which depletes the grain of the previously mentioned nutrients.

Fiber comes in two forms: insoluble and soluble. Increased consumption of fiber is associated with reduced levels of “bad” cholesterol (remember: LDL cholesterol) and reduced risk of heart disease. As an added bonus, high-fiber foods can help you feel fuller longer and have fewer calories. Foods high in fiber are also generally whole grains! Therefore, increasing your consumption of whole grains means that you are also increasing your consumption of fiber. Why not kill two birds with one stone and switch to more whole grains!

Incorporating whole grains can help improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes 2. The AHA recommends that at least half of the grains you eat be whole grains and consume 28 grams of fiber per day. These include foods like whole grain bread, brown rice, whole oats, whole grain barley, and more.

Be selective with your proteins

For many of us, meat is the primary source of protein. However, popular meat sources such as hamburgers, steaks, and bacon, while high in protein, are major sources of saturated fat (remark: “bad” fat). High consumption of these types of protein can lead to an increased risk of many health complications such as obesity, high cholesterol, plaque build-up and of course heart disease and stroke. Switching to heart-healthy protein sources can help significantly reduce these risks and help maintain a heart-healthy diet.

Changing “meat eating” habits can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. One easy tip for managing protein and meat consumption is to treat meat as separately meals instead Main events. Try to limit meat to 6 ounces per day, which is 2 servings (hint: one serving of meat = the size of a pack of cards).

When it comes to heart-healthy protein sources, the AHA recommends including fish, shellfish, skinless poultry, and lean cuts such as various cuts of pork. Starting to incorporate these alternative sources of protein into your diet will help you get on the right track for your heart health.

Remember, these are simple steps to protect your heart and overall health.

A heart-healthy diet will be your greatest protection against heart disease and stroke. Start today by taking advantage of these heart-healthy tips and keeping track of your nutrition. Don’t let heart disease rule your world, make the changes that best fit your lifestyle and health goals.

Which of the above suggestions match the health goals you have in mind?

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