Good to Your Guf: Heart Healthy Diet - 8 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease
Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women? The good news is, with the right tools, however, heart disease can be prevented. Here are eight steps to help you prevent heart disease and take control of your life.
- Control your portion size: How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you should. Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods. This strategy can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits: Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Featuring vegetables and fruits in your diet can be easy. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Keep fruit in a bowl in your kitchen so that you’ll remember to eat it. Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as the main ingredients, such as vegetable stir-fry or fresh fruit mixed into salads.
- Select whole grains: Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. Or be adventuresome and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain farro, quinoa, or barley.
- Limit unhealthy fats: Limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaques in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
An easy way to add healthy fat (and fiber) to your diet is ground flaxseed. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have found that flaxseeds may help lower cholesterol in some people. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoon of them into yogurt, applesauce, or hot cereal.
- Choose low-fat protein sources: Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs are some of your best sources of protein. But be careful to choose lower fat options, such as skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken breasts rather than fried chicken patties.
- Reduce the sodium in your food:
- Healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of salt).
- People age 51 or older, African-Americans, and people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease have no more than 1,500mg of sodium a day.
- Plan ahead: Create daily menus: You know what foods to feature in your heart-healthy diet and which ones to limit. Now it’s time to put your plans into action. Create daily menus using the six strategies listed above.
- Allow yourself an occasional treat: Allow yourself an indulgence every now and then. A candy bar or handful of potato chips won’t derail your heart-healthy diet. But don’t let it turn into an excuse for giving up on your healthy-eating plan.
Adapted from the Mayo Clinic.
Be sure to check out your February Center Peace to find out all the great heart-healthy fitness classes available at the J! Also, if you're looking for a little extra motivation, consider joining the JCC's "Fit Day at the J" accountability Facebook group! The group is moderated by some of your favorite JCC Sports & Fitness staff, and will help provide fun fitness tips, basic nutrition advice, healthy recipes, and most of all - a plethora of encouragement to help make 2018 your healthiest year yet! For more information about the group, contact Gretchen Hokenson.