While most people know fast foods and sugary drinks can send bad cholesterol levels skyrocketing setting up the stage for heart disease, it is often very difficult to avoid them because of aggressive marketing, easy availability, and addictive nature of these foods. Making healthy food choices may be the single most important factor in preventing heart disease and the onus of making these choices lies squarely on the shoulders of the consumer – You!
Let’s look at some ways to prevent heart disease with a healthy diet:
Eat more fruits and vegetables instead of high-fat foods such as meat, cheese, and processed snacks. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of minerals and vitamins. They also contain fiber which helps maintain bowel health. Avoid vegetables with creamy sauces or fried vegetables and opt for fresh or frozen vegetables and low sodium canned vegetables. Avoid fruits packed with heavy syrup and added sugar. Instead, opt for fresh fruit or fruit packed with water.
Eat more whole grains instead of refined grain products. Whole grains provide important nutrients for heart health and are a good source of fiber. Grain products to choose include whole-wheat flour, whole grain bread, whole wheat bread, high fiber cereal, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, and oatmeal. Avoid grain products such as refined white flour, white bread, doughnuts, biscuits, egg noodles, buttered popcorn, and high fat crackers.
Choose healthy fats instead of saturated fats and trans fats. Unhealthy fats can increase the plaque buildup in your arteries increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. It is best to avoid all solid fats such as butter, margarine, and trim off visible fat from meat. Fats to choose include olive oil, vegetable oil, nut oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Choose low fat protein sources instead of the high fat variety. Eat more of white meat found in poultry and fish instead of red meat such as beef, pork, and lamb. Eggs are the gold standard when it comes to quality protein. The high amount of fat in the egg yolk can be avoided by eating only egg whites instead of whole eggs. Skimmed milk, legumes, and soy products are also excellent sources of protein.
Reduce salt intake. Eating a lot of salted food is a serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Try to limit your salt intake to no more than a teaspoon a day. Salt is a major component of all canned and processed foods, so it is best to cook fresh food and soups as far as possible.
Now that you have a list of heart healthy foods, make sure that your kitchen is well stocked with them. Plan your meals in advance and watch your portion sizes. Small meals at regular intervals will maintain your energy levels throughout the day and reduce your cravings for junk food. Remember, as with the effort required for healthy eating, the benefits belong to one person – You!