There is more talk about eating a heart healthy diet than ever before.
But what does it really mean and how can eating a heart healthy diet really help improve the health of your heart? Keep reading and we’ll shed some light on the whole heart healthy phenomenon.
Most people understand eating certain foods too often can be harmful to their heart and their health. But for most people, that’s about all they know and they aren’t even sure which foods to avoid and which ones they should make sure to eat.
A heart healthy diet is especially important for anyone with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, individuals who are overweight and so many other health concerns.
So what is a heart healthy diet and how can you make sure your diet is heart healthy? Here are a number of recommendations and tips on keeping your diet as healthy as possible.
Recommendations for a Heart Healthy Diet
Use as many calories as you take in – By using the calories you consume, you can prevent weight gain that can put unnecessary stress on your heart. Make sure you are getting regular exercise to avoid the calories being stored as fat.
Eat foods from all the food groups – Eating a variety of different foods can help you get more of the nutrients you need for overall better health.
Eat fewer nutrient-dense foods – Nutrient dense foods are those foods packed with calories, low in nutritional value and tiny in size. (i.e. candy bars, cookies, cakes and other snacks).
Base your eating on the following recommendations:
Eat lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare without added saturated fat and trans fat.
Eat fish at least twice a week. Research indicates eating oily fish with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your risk for coronary heart disease.
Eat fat-free and low-fat diary products.
Avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat.
Reduce saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your total amount of calories.
Avoid food and beverages with added sugars.
Prepare and eat foods with little or no salt. Aim for less than 24 grams of sodium a day and 15 grams to lower your blood pressure.
If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. Limit yourself to one drink a day if you’re a woman and two drinks a day if you’re a man.
When eating out, always be aware of the portion size you’re eating.
Tips to Making Your Diet More Heart Healthy
What You Should Include in Your Diet:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Skinless poultry
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy
- Healthy fats and non-tropical oils
What You Should Limit in Your Diet:
- Sodium and salt
- Saturated fat
- Sweets and added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages
- Red meats
What You Should Avoid in Your Diet:
Trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to a heart healthy diet before you know it.
- Compare nutrition information
- Watch your calorie intake
- Eat reasonable portions
- Eat a variety of foods
- Prepare and eat more often at home
Key nutrients for heart health
L-arginine – L-arginine is an amino acid that converts to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps to expand the blood vessels and improve overall blood pressure. By improving blood pressure levels, L-arginine is one of the best nutrients available for your heart.
L-arginine is found in many foods we eat but most of us don’t get significant amounts from our diets. Supplementing with L-arginine Plus helps to provide proven amounts of L-arginine so you see improvements in the health of your heart.
L-citrulline – L-citrulline is another one of the best amino acids for the health of your heart. L-citrulline also improves the amount of nitric oxide within the body to improve blood flow.
Magnesium – Many people are seriously low on magnesium even though the benefits for your heart really stand out. Low levels of magnesium can lead to high blood pressure and worse. Magnesium helps to ensure the muscles function properly around the blood vessels.
B Vitamins – Numerous studies have shown B vitamins help reduce the risk of heart problems. Studies have shown the B vitamins help lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that damages inner linings of arteries, leading to blood clots.
Resveratrol – Resveratrol is the key ingredient in red wine shown to improve the health of the heart. Resveratrol prevents damage to the blood vessels, reduces LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk for blood clots.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – For years the American Heart Association has recommended people eat fish one or two times a week to get more Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. These unsaturated fatty acids help reduce inflammation that can lead to damaged blood vessels and increased risk for heart disease.
Some aspects of a heart healthy diet are obvious: less fat, less sugar, less processed food. In fact, most will say that a heart healthy diet is the way we should all be eating in the first place—heart problems or not!
However, a diet to correct heart problems, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, may need to include or increase the traffic of specific nutrients.
Here, we’re going to highlight key players and nutrients in a heart healthy diet, what they do, and how you can start getting more of them!
Fiber is an essential part of a heart healthy diet, but it is so often overlooked or brushed off as a nutrient only used for easing constipation.
However, fiber has been proven to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Fiber is also indigestible, and causes food to stay in your stomach longer.
This helps you to feel fuller longer, aiding in appetite control, promoting weight loss, and managing blood glucose levels. Management of blood glucose is key to lowering your risk of diabetes and other heart diseases.
Natural sources of fiber are: Whole wheat, oats, almonds, and fruit. It is recommended that everyone gets 25g of fiber every day!
You hear it all the time. “Eat more fish. Get more Omega-3s.” But what do Omega 3s actually do for your heart health?
Omega 3s are unsaturated fatty acids that can be a more healthy replacement for saturated fats in other cuts of meat.
They may help reduce inflammation, decrease triglycerides (preventing cholesterol), lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of clotting and heart failure.
The recommended serving of Omega-3s (found in salmon, herring, and tuna) is two servings a week.
Natural sources of Omega 3s are: flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon, walnuts
Magnesium is necessary for muscle function in blood vessels. If your body is short on magnesium, blood pressure can increase because your blood vessels do not have enough magnesium to help them relax.
Magnesium is also required for your heart muscle to act properly, and it promotes the regulation of blood sugar levels.
It is, however, possible to go overboard when you supplement your magnesium if you don’t have enough calcium.
Natural sources of magnesium are: dark leafy greens, nuts, avocados, dark chocolate
Calcium works in tandem with magnesium to help healthy cellular function, as it allows muscles to contract where magnesium helps relaxation.
Sufficient intake of calcium in your diet is important, but overdoing it can be fatal.
Often, you will be told not to supplement calcium but to find natural, dietary sources of it instead. This might help you from getting too much calcium and throwing off your magnesium-calcium balance.
Natural sources of calcium are: white beans, kale, low fat dairy products
As an antioxidant, Vitamin E is essential for guarding your arteries.
It keeps blood from sticking and clotting, and keeps your cholesterol balanced and under control.
Vitamin E also prevents artery damage and keeps your blood cells and fat cells from becoming toxic.
Natural sources of Vitamin E are: broccoli, squash, avocado, shellfish, olive oil
Looking for more great heart healthy eating tips? Read 5 Unbelievably Easy Heart Healthy Recipes.