Keeping your heart healthy means monitoring your diet – among other things. In our last blog, we mentioned how important it is to exercise, get the right amount of sleep, relax, moderate alcohol, and quit smoking. Today, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into a heart-healthy diet. In general, you’ll want to balance your diet and get plenty of nutrition to keep your cardiovascular system operating as it should. Aside from that, here are some general guidelines for keeping your heart healthy:
Mind Your Portions
Portions in America have grown to ridiculous sizes. A large soda at McDonald’s, for instance, is a whopping 32 ounces. That’s just too much sugar and too many empty calories for a healthy diet. Be mindful that your calorie sources should come from nutrient-rich foods. Aim for a balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and make sure that your food sources are full of the vitamins and minerals that the body needs. That said, let’s dig into those ideal foods you can consume to boost your heart health.
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Veggies
If your diet lacks fruits and veggies, you’re missing out on a great source of nutrients! Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins that your heart (and the rest of the body) rely on to operate properly. Opt for raw fruits and veggies of all types. Avoid breading or frying, as the negative effects of frying your food will outweigh the benefits. Also, try to avoid fruits that are coated in sugar. Instead, choose fresh fruits over sugar-coated fruits or fruits packaged in a sugary syrup. Fruits and veggies are naturally delicious, and they can be prepared to be even more delicious and healthy!
Go for Whole Grains
When it comes to grains, try to consume less refined grains. Steer clear of white bread and refined flour. Instead opt for hearty, healthy whole grains in whole-wheat flour and whole-grain bread. Also, try out more alternative whole grains. Incorporate barley, buckwheat, farro, and quinoa into your diet. Oats are a great option and you can never go wrong with a bit of brown rice. Remember that grains should also be packed with fiber, so opt for unrefined, healthy, fiber-rich grains!
Opt for Healthy Fats
Fat is essential for heart health, yet the wrong fats can be very harmful to the heart and the cardiovascular system. There are three main categories of fat: Unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats. In general, you’ll want to moderate your intake of saturated and trans fats. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat is consumed as “less than 7% of your total daily calories, or less than 14 g of saturated fat if you follow a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet,” meanwhile, trans fat should be consumed as “less than 1% of your total daily calories, or less than 2 g of trans fat if you follow a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.” In short, you’ll want to monitor your fat intake altogether, and it’s best to sub out saturated fats and trans fats with unsaturated fats. Try our olive oil, veggie and nut oils, canola oil, and margarine. Nuts, seeds, and avocados are also great sources of healthy fat.
Plenty of Protein
Protein is a major building block for muscles, and the heart is the hardest working muscle in the body. Constantly on the go, the heart is tasked with pumping some 2,500 gallons of blood in a day. That’s a powerful muscle. And protein is essential for retaining that power. When you’re looking for a protein source in your meals, it’s best to opt for lean proteins to help your heart health. Low-fat dairy products, eggs, poultry, fish, soy based products, and other lean meats are the best sources of protein. Moderate your intake of fatty meats, including bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and the like.
Cut the Salt
Salt can boost your blood pressure, and that can be a problem for your cardiovascular health. Sodium, an element in salt, is necessary for bodily functions, but only in very small proportions. Unfortunately, modern snacking culture here in America has integrated salt as a key ingredient in junk food. Look at the ingredients list in processed foods, and stay away from foods with high salt content. It’s often best to cook your own food to keep salt levels healthy. If you’re looking to add some zest to your meal, opt for salt-free spices and herbs. You can also find reduced-salt condiments if you love soy sauce, ketchup, or other flavor-enhancers.
Your Heart & Your Diet
Here at Stockton Cardiology, we know that your heart health counts. That’s why we provide our cardiology services, and it’s why we dedicate time to information surrounding your cardiovascular system. Check back soon for more articles surrounding your cardiovascular health, and get in touch with us to get started with cardiology testing and treatment!