Most of the risk factors for heart disease are largely preventable. Your food choices can help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes- 3 important risk factors for heart disease. Here are five tips to help your ticker stay healthy:
Eat More Whole Grains
Found in oatmeal, brown rice; whole wheat bread, pasta, and cereal, whole grains are full of fiber that benefits your heart. At least half the grain foods you eat daily should be whole grains.
Be Wary of Added Sugars
These include high fructose corn syrup, sucrose or table sugar, and yes, honey and maple syrup. Added sugars, regardless of the source, affect your body the same. It all comes down to how fast the sugars get absorbed. For example, your body spends more time digesting a pear because of the fiber content, so the natural sugar absorbs more slowly. However, the added sugar in a soda arrives in your system all at once, like a sugar explosion. All that extra sugar gets converted to calories much more rapidly and wreaks havoc on your system. But good news! Food manufacturers now have to disclose the amount of added sugars in their products, making it easier to know how much added sugars we are eating. A quick rule of thumb: 4 grams of added sugars equals one teaspoon. According to the American Heart Association, women should limit their intake of added sugars to 6 teaspoons per day while men should keep theirs under nine teaspoons per day.
Go for Omega-3s
These outstanding fatty acids have been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, fight inflammation, and reduce heart disease risk by raising the “good” HDL cholesterol. The best sources are fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, and trout. Plant sources of omega-3 FA include canola, walnuts, soy foods, flax, and chia seeds.
Up the Monounsaturated Fats
These healthy fats may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increasing HDL levels. Best sources include olive, peanut, avocado, sesame, and canola oil. Sprinkle some olive oil on salads and vegetables. Enjoy avocado on toast, in sandwiches, or as a dip. Snack on a handful of nuts or add them on your breakfast cereal, in a smoothie, or on a salad (most are great sources). Some many fun ways to spread the love!
Eat More Plants
Try going meatless at least one meal per week. Eating vegetarian protein sources is a great way to decrease your intake of harmful saturated fats. It also boosts your unsaturated fats intake for better heart-health. Eating more plants also means eating more veggies and fruits- the more color the better! All forms count: frozen, fresh, canned, and dried- especially those without added sugar or salt. Your body will thank you!
Brigitte Harton is a consultant Registered Dietitian at the non-profit Age Well and a Board Certified Wellness Coach. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the services Age Well provides such as Meals on Wheels, Care Coordination, Medicare education, and more call the Helpline at 800-642-5119 or visit Agewellvt.org.