Heart healthy eating has benefits for your entire body, not just your heart. February is National Heart Health Month to bring awareness to the number one killer of Americans. It’s interesting that when we get diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, or other diseases our initial reaction is what can I do to get rid of this disease. With Heart Disease, we have become complacent, and just go on with our lives, learning to “live with it." For the most part, you don’t have to accept “live with it.” Heart healthy eating and healthy living can do wonders to reverse heart disease, to perhaps come off medications, but at the very least reduce dosage. Heart healthy eating is flavorful and robust with foods of color, texture, and flavor. Heart healthy eating is choosing to spice up your foods with antioxidant rich herbs and spices. Heart healthy eating is choosing sufficient protein, but not too much. Heart healthy eating is living, not living with disease! So how do you put the suggestions of heart healthy eating into action?
Heart Healthy Eating and Living 101
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Lose weight if needed and avoid weight gain. It does not have to be inevitable! As little as 7 - 10 percent weight loss has a huge impact on your heart health. Heart healthy eating is a key to sustaining your weight loss and maintaining your weight.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Choose at least 7 to 9 servings of colorful and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables each day. These are low calorie, high fiber foods that are crunchy and sweet! If you do nothing else, this one action will provide a huge pay off in heart healthy eating and so much more.
Eat more fiber rich whole grains and fewer refined grains. Cooked whole grains are very filling and lead to increased satiety, or satisfaction. Whole grain foods include oatmeal, brown rice, barley, whole wheat, quinoa and corn. Refined grains are used in packaged and processed foods, snack foods, and desserts. Any of these grains can be refined and made into products such as bagels, white bread, crackers, pretzels, cakes, cookies and doughnuts. These foods are less satisfying and lead to cravings for more.
Limit sugars and oils. Some fats and oils are healthier, however they still have calories and can still lead to weight gain. Aim to replace less healthy fat with a healthier option Sugar is still sugar, there isn’t one that is markedly healthier or less healthy.
Eat less animal proteins, particularly ones that are high in saturated fat. Legumes such as black beans, pinto beans, split peas and white beans are excellent additions to eat enough protein without too much animal protein. Choose dairy such as lower fat yogurt, lower fat milk and cheese, as more research is showing benefits of dairy on our heart. Fish and seafood are excellent choices providing protein and omega three fatty acids, which are heart protective. Choose cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and herring. Switching from 4 ounces of beef or poultry to 4 oz. of fish or seafood 3 - 4 times a week could also save you 10 pounds in a year!
Spice it up! Choose flavorful recipes and use herbs and spices. They are good for flavor and also many have anti-inflammatory properties helping to reduce heart disease.
Choose to move daily. Although not heart healthy eating, exercise is key to heart healthy living, and just plain living! Set a goal for 30 or more minutes of exercise every day.
Reduce Stress: Yoga is an excellent way to reduce stress and get fit!