Tips to eat right for heart health
By Alex Nagy
Eating healthy could easily seem like a tedious chore. It can be difficult to focus on getting a full spectrum of vitamins and nutrients from a wide variety of foods, especially when it comes to heart health.
However, the most important aspect to remember in eating for heart health is balance. There are certain foods from all types of food groups that are most beneficial for your heart. To maintain a healthy heart, introduce some of the following foods into your everyday diet. You’ll also want to reduce your consumption of processed foods and those high in salt, sugar or fat.
If you’re looking to indulge in the perfect sweet treat, fruits are always the best option. You can cut back on processed sugars if you rely on fruit to add sweetness to your diet. Try to specifically steer towards berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and more. Berries are high in anthocyanin antioxidants, which have been proven to help treat cardiovascular disorders and inflammation, according to Today’s Dietitian magazine. These antioxidants also happen to give the fruits their bright red and blue colors.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy berries – on their own, blended into a smoothie or as part of a delicious dessert.
Leafy greens are a necessary part of a heart-healthy diet. Greens, such as spinach and kale, contain vitamin K and dietary nitrates. Vitamin K promotes artery function by reducing both blood clots and calcium deposits, which could accumulate plaque and lead to heart disease, as reported by Healthline.
Don’t be afraid or intimidated by these dark green vegetables! They can easily become an appetizing part of your everyday diet. You can incorporate greens into fruit smoothies to give them an extra nutrient punch. Leafy greens are also tasty as part of salads, or sautéed with healthy cooking oils.
You should always choose whole grains over refined grains for the sake of your heart health. According to the American Heart Association, whole grains are rich in vitamins and fiber and have been proven to lower levels of bad cholesterol, which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. An added bonus: whole grains will help keep you regular and feel fuller.
Luckily, foods containing whole grains are simple to find. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal and popcorn are just a few examples of whole grain that fit into a healthy diet.
Meats and Fish
It’s no secret that the high saturated fat levels in red meat have long contributed to heart disease. For this reason, you should avoid red meat in your diet and only enjoy lean cuts in moderation. Opt instead for fatty fish like salmon and tuna, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s will help lower heart rate and blood pressure while improving overall blood vessel function.
Prepare your meats and fish using seasonings with small amounts of salt and cook in oil that’s high in oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat. Olive oil is perhaps the most popular heart-healthy oil appropriate for everyday use in cooking.
A proper diet for positive heart health requires balance and plenty of sources of nutrients. You are still able to enjoy all of life’s finer things while being conscious of the foods that are best for your heart. Turning down a slice of cake or a juicy steak every now and then may be difficult, but your heart will thank you for it in the long run.
Alex Nagy is a freelance writer and a full-time journalism student at Drexel University.
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