Heart-Healthy Choices for Everyday Eating
What you eat can have a huge impact on preventing heart disease. But relying on the latest health news when choosing heart-healthy foods can be confusing: One minute a certain food is off limits, and the next it’s been given the heart check.
Eggs are a good example of this flip-flop. They were targeted for their high cholesterol content not too long ago but now, researchers tout the heart-healthy benefits of the yolk. Eggs also contain protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin and folate—all thought to lower the risk for heart disease. Moderate egg consumption—one a day—does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet.
To lower your chances of heart disease, it’s important to limit your bad fats—i.e. saturated and trans fat found in butter, margarine and shortening as well as whole-milk dairy and fatty meats with skin. When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may actually help lower your total blood cholesterol. Even avocados, once relegated to the “do not eat list” because of their high fat content—are lauded now as healthy choices due to their impressive amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Eating too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing foods high in sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet.
Here are other food suggestions to add to your heart healthy list:
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals, low in calories and high in fiber, so they’re filling. They also have properties that may help prevent heart disease.
- Choose whole grains. They are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. Try switching your refined grains for some quinoa, barley, wild rice, brown rice or whole-grain couscous. Sprinkle some toasted wheat germ on your favorite foods for an added whole grain bonus.
- Choose lean meat, skinless poultry and fish, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products for your best sources of protein. Certain types of fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. Other sources are flaxseed, hemp seeds, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil. Legumes—beans, peas and lentils—also are good sources of protein and contain little fat and no cholesterol, making them good substitutes for meat.