How to eat healthy for your heart: choose from this list of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Following a heart healthy diet means eating nutritional foods from all the food groups, with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.
How to eat healthy
Start by eating whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils.
A list of healthy foods includes: vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, and broccoli, leafy greens like spinach and kale, and fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and peaches. It includes fat-free or low-fat milk, fat-free or low-fat yogurt, cheese, and fat-free or low-fat soymilk with calcium.
Breads, cereals, and grains should be whole grain. For products with more than one ingredient make sure that whole wheat or another whole grain is listed first.
To eat healthy for your heart, you should choose lean cuts of meat and other sources of protein. This includes fish, beans, lentils and peas, eggs and egg substitutes, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
One myth about heart healthy foods is that they don’t taste good, says dietitian Toby Morris of the University of California at San Francisco Nutrition Counseling Clinic.
Healthy food does not need to be complicated
“There are so many healthy foods that are simple to prepare and delicious,” she adds. “For example, fresh spinach sautéed in a bit of olive oil with garlic, finished with a squeeze of lemon and fresh pepper, tastes amazing and takes only a few minutes to make.”
You should also read food labels and limit the amount of trans fats you eat. Trans fats raises levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol in the body.
The DASH diet
It has been found to lower hypertension across all subgroups in the U.S. and has become a standard bearer for heart healthy diets.
The DASH diet is plant focused, rich in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with no-fat and low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish, and poultry, mostly whole grains, and heart healthy fats.
The first DASH diet found it could lower blood pressure as well as reduce the need for first line blood pressure medications. Since then, numerous studies have found the diet reduces the risk of many diseases, including heart disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines dovetail with DASH guidelines, recommending the same kinds of foods. The DASH Diet fits the pattern of AHA dietary recommendations across the board.
The AHA also fully supports the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) on the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“The new federal dietary guidelines give Americans more flexibility in their diets without sacrificing their health. By providing a valuable source of nutrition information, the standards are part of a roadmap to help build a ‘culture of health’ in America. This healthier culture will help reduce our risk for heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world,” said Mark Creager, MD, past-president of the American Heart Association.
Again, the AHA urges you to adopt the total diet concept recommended in the (USDA) guidelines that an overall heart healthy dietary pattern emphasizes: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts; and limit red meat, sodium, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Beyond foods that are bad for you, “there is overwhelming evidence that smoking, alcohol, and physical activity are important determinants of coronary heart disease,” according to the lead author of one study in the journal Circulation. “Complex interactions between diet, lifestyle, and lipoprotein metabolism determine the development of (heart disease) and its complications.”
April 20, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN