A heart-healthy lifestyle involves regular exercise, a balanced diet, and steering clear of fast foods and other damaging vices, such as smoking. An unhealthy heart can lead to a string of illnesses, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and increase susceptibility to viral attacks.
Unfortunately, many people are unaware of what constitutes a heart-healthy diet. The key is to eat as many natural foods as you can. This selection includes nuts, seeds, unrefined grains, and healthy unsaturated fat, like fish oil. Non-processed dairy and lean meats, like chicken, are also allowed, as long as they’re consumed within the recommended amounts.
There are a lot of things you can do today to keep your heart healthy. To make sure you have a diet that serves your heart well, here’s a checklist of foods to nudge you in the right direction:
Vegetables And Fruits
The more vegetables and fruits you eat, the healthier your heart becomes.
Vegetables have a low energy density, which proves pivotal in maintaining healthy body weight. Foods with low energy density, like vegetables and fruits, are a great way of filling your appetite with fewer calories while keeping yourself energized throughout the day.
As a rule of thumb, include two handfuls of non-starchy vegetables in every meal to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients in your diet.
Here are some ideas to help you add more fruits and veggies to your daily meals:
- Add one banana to your breakfast oatmeal
- Include additional vegetables to your dinner in the form of a salad
- Take coleslaw with your takeaway meal (if you eat takeaways, of course)
- Snack on fruits such as apples, grapes or pears
Legumes, Fish, Seafood, And Eggs
These foods are great for helping your body replenish its protein reserves, and fast-track muscle recovery and other critical bodily processes. Rich in vitamins B, iron, and zinc, they’re a great way to keep your heart in tip-top shape.
Legumes are one of the most underutilized and cost-effective foods in the world. They’re an excellent replacement for meat and come in a variety of shapes and colors. Red kidney beans, split peas, mung beans, soybeans, and cannellini beans make the choices endless. You can have them pre-cooked in a can or cook them the way you like.
As a general recommendation, eating legumes four to five times a week is enough to ensure good heart health.
Fish And Seafood
Fish is another excellent alternative to red meat. Dietitians recommend oily fish replete with healthy omega-3 fatty acids as these decrease the chances of abnormal heart rhythm and sudden cardiac death.
The oiliest fish are pilchards, trout, mackerel, and salmon. To keep your heart healthy, have fish twice a week, and remember that the oilier the fish, the better.
Because eggs are low-calorie and high-protein food, they have become an inexpensive source of a heart-healthy diet. People with underlying heart diseases can have up to six eggs in a week, without adversely affecting their serum cholesterol levels.
In 1999, Harvard researchers concluded that there was no association between eating one egg per day and an increased likelihood of acute or chronic coronary heart disease.
Furthermore, two 2017 studies showed the beneficial effects of eggs on cholesterol levels. In the study, subjects who ate below the recommended amount of eggs had higher concentrations of low density and high-density cholesterol (LDL and HDL) in their bloodstreams.
Healthy oils, Nuts, And Seeds
This specific category includes olives, cashews, avocados, nuts, oils, and other similar selections. These contain a great arsenal of healthy fat —polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat which are much better for your heart health than fat high-in-saturated content, such as meat fat, cream, and butter. Foods composed of polyunsaturated and unsaturated fat play a huge role in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the blood. They, therefore, make a great inclusion in a heart-healthy diet.
Remember that not all oils share the same characteristics. For one, palm and coconut oil could be harmful as they contain high levels of saturated fat, which increases your risk of chronic heart disease.
Additionally, unrefined or “extra virgin” oils don’t undergo rigorous chemical processing and retain most of their beneficial compounds, such as antioxidants. This little detail makes them excellent ammunition for your heart in difficult times.
Nuts And Seeds
Simple nuts and seeds without sugar, salt, and other chemical preservatives contain beneficial unsaturated fats, which are great for your heart. However, it would help if you don’t go overboard with them. Thirty grams of nuts is enough for most days. It’s also advisable to mix up things and have a range of nuts and seeds to yield maximum benefits.
Grains And Starchy Vegetables
Grains and starchy vegetables are a great source of carbohydrates, which keep your body and brain fueled with energy. High-fiber grains and starchy vegetables shield the heart against many dangerous diseases. Fiber normalizes bowel movements and harmonizes glucose and cholesterol levels in the body.
Grains include bread, wraps, millet, buckwheat, tapioca, amaranth, breakfast cereals, chapatti, and roti. Starchy veggies, on the one hand, include kumara (Sweet potato), yams, potato, corn, green banana, cassava, Māori potatoes, and parsnip.
One thing to remember when selecting grains is their type. Intact whole grains are the best choice for a healthy and balanced diet. Whole-grain products usually contain the terms “oat bran”, “whole grain”, “kibbled wheat”, or “barley” in their ingredients list. Whole-grain foods may also refer to those that haven’t undergone a lot of processing, e.g., brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa.
A healthy heart is vital for a long and disease-free life. To make sure that your heart is getting the nutrients it needs to sustain itself for the long haul, including a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, and other nutrient-rich and natural foods in your diet. You owe it to your heart that keeps your body powered throughout your life. Make this article as your guideline to ensure optimal heart health and overall well-being.
Kate Macmorn is the communications director for the American Medical Resource Institute, which has helped nearly one million medical professionals earn & maintain their life support certifications.