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Heart-Healthy Diet: Five Tips to Prevent Heart Disease

by Cindy Gray

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, it takes the lives of roughly 610,000 Americans each year.  The road to a healthy heart begins with a healthy lifestyle.  While watching weight, reducing stress, and exercise make a big contribution, a heart-healthy diet can be just as important.  A few dietary tips can help people reduce chances for developing heart disease and promote better overall health.  

Fruits and vegetables make a valuable addition to a heart-healthy diet.

1.  Exercise Portion Control

When it comes to a heart-healthy diet, quantity is as important as quality.  More calories can increase body weight, and according to the American Heart Association, people who are overweight or obese experience a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. 

To help control portion size, use smaller plates.  Envision a hockey puck to determine a healthy portion for rice or pasta, and a deck of cards for meat, fish, or chicken.  Measuring cups and dietary scales also help with proper portion control.

2.  Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Offering few calories and lots of fiber, fruits and vegetables promote a healthy heart.  Foods high in fiber help prevent heart disease by contributing to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.  Load the grocery cart with apples, oranges, bananas, melons, and berries.  Slice raw veggies like carrots, cucumbers, celery, and cauliflower and place them in large zip-lock bags for quick and easy access.  Add fresh or frozen veggies to soups, sauces, casseroles, and stir fries.

3.  Limit Unhealthy Fats

For a heart-healthy diet, steer clear of partially hydrogenated or deep-fried foods that contain deadly trans fats, and limit amounts of whole-fat dairy or red meats to reduce amounts of saturated fats.  For a healthier alternative, cook with olive oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil, and add foods like nuts, freshwater fatty fish, flax seeds, and avocados to your grocery cart.

Related:  Healthy Fats Improve Nutrient Absorption

4.  Reduce Sodium

Too much salt contributes to high blood pressure, a condition that raises risks for developing cardiovascular disease.  According to the American Heart Association, people should limit the intake of salt to one teaspoon per day or less.  To help reduce sodium intake, shop for foods and condiments that are low-sodium or sodium free, and flavor home-cooked foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.

5.  Choose Healthy Protein Sources

Protein makes a valuable addition to a heart-healthy diet, but some sources are better than others.  Choose lean cuts of grass-fed beef, skinless poultry, fish, and eggs.  Select low-fat yogurt and milk products or substitute dairy milk with almond, cashew, or coconut milk.  Make a variety of dried beans and lentils a regular addition to the diet as a good source of plant-based protein and fiber.  Avoid processed sandwich meats, bacon, and hotdogs that contain harmful chemicals, steer clear of breaded meats, and opt for baking and grilling instead of frying. 

Taking advantage of the tips above can help people avoid becoming another heart disease statistic.  Exercising portion control, eating more fruits and veggies, limiting unhealthy fats, reducing sodium, and choosing healthy sources of protein make a winning combination for a heart-healthy diet.  Adding exercise and stress-reduction techniques further ensures a healthy heart and optimal overall health.  

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