By Patrick Landers
Keys to a Healthy Heart
Take a moment to reflect on your nutritional habits. Chances are there are some modifications you could be making to help keep your heart in optimal condition. If you’re unsure about what steps you should be taking, it is time to start learning a few. Unhealthy diets are linked to four of the world’s top ten leading risk factors causing death: high blood pressure, high blood glucose, obesity, and high cholesterol. Each of these is a heart disease risk factor that you can control if you take action. Here are some nutritional modifications you can try to help improve your heart health:
Cook at Home
Cooking at home is a great way to make sure the ingredients that go into your meals are healthy. When you cook at home you can choose to include whole grains in your meals. Whole grains are important because they contain antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols which protect against coronary disease. Also, add soluble fiber and insoluble fiber to your recipes. Soluble fiber helps remove unwanted toxins from the body. As it moves through the intestines it works like a sponge, soaking up toxins and capturing them in order to prevent their reabsorption into the bloodstream. Foods high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, barley, beans, okra, eggplant, and citrus fruit, such as oranges. Insoluble fiber (found in vegetables, wheat bran, dried beans, whole grains and seeds) passes through the digestive tract virtually intact. During its journey through the intestines it helps to “sweep” the colon free of debris by removing toxins from the intestinal wall.
Substitute the Fats – The Good for the Bad
Substitute good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) for bad fats (saturated and trans fats). For example, try canola oil or olive oil instead of butter. Start incorporating flaxseed oil and walnuts that contain omega-3 fats to your meals. Omega-3 fats lower the levels of triglycerides in your blood that may contribute to blood clotting. They also lower blood pressure slightly and can help prevent irregular heart rhythms. Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats found in walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and peanuts are some more great additions. Also, opt for lean meats such as poultry without skin and fish instead of fattier cuts of meats. Enjoy heart-healthy fats in moderation and remember this tip: 1 teaspoon equals 1 serving.
Pile on the Fruits and Vegetables
Choose all kinds of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried. All fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Load your shopping basket with fruits and vegetables of many different colors. Polyphenol and anthocyanin (found in blue, purple and deep-red foods) and tannins (also found in wine and tea) may help to reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries and lower blood pressure. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, plus vitamin A, potassium and fiber. They are high in lycopene, which works with other vitamins and minerals that may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Grab a piece of CHOCOLATE! Flavanol-rich dark chocolate has a blood-thinning effect, which can benefit cardiovascular health, and it may also boost the immune system by reducing inflammation. Be sure to choose dark chocolate, ideally one that’s 70 percent cocoa solids; milk chocolate lacks significant levels of epicatechin (a type of natural phenol antioxidant).
Below is a quick reference guide with some heart healthy tips based on a 2,000 calorie diet:
- At least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day.
- At least two 3.5 oz. servings of fish per week, preferably oily fish
- At least three 1-ounce servings of fiber-rich whole grains per day
- Limit sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams a day
- Drinking no more than 36 ounces weekly of sugar-sweetened beverages
For more heart healthy tips and information check out heart.org!
American Heart Association (2014). Heart Health. [ONLINE] [Last Accessed January 8th, 2014].
American Heart Association (2014). Heart Health. [ONLINE] [Last Accessed January 13th, 2014].
ReNew Life Formulas (2014). Fiber Nutrition. [ONLINE] [Last Accessed January 16th, 2014].