Is Your Heart-Smart Diet up-to-Date?
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Through heart-healthy eating has changed over the years, and many of our go-to items are no longer the best choices. Joan Katz, RD, LNHA, Christian Health’s Chief Dietitian, offers 15 tips that can change your heart-healthy regime into a heart-smart diet:
- Portion size: A dramatic increase in portion size for all types of foods has occurred over the past two decades. Considering that we really taste our foods in just the first three bites, it makes sense that the smaller the portion, the better to help moderate overall caloric, fat, and salt intake.
- Home cooking: You can season your food with great herbs and spices, and not with excessive salt, and you can trim fat from your animal proteins far better than any restauranteur can.
- Olive oil: The go-to oil in your pantry should be olive oil — light olive oil for baking or sautéing, and extra virgin for salads and dips.
- Avocado: Avocados are great food to help lower your bad cholesterol numbers and a great substitute for butter, margarine, and mayo on sandwiches and salads.
- Low-fat dairy: It’s all about low-fat dairy choices, including skim milk, low- fat yogurts, and low-fat cheeses. The valuable potassium, calcium, and magnesium in dairy is super-important for optimal heart health!
- Fish: Loaded with protein and omega 3s, salmon, mackerel, sardines, arctic char, anchovies, and rainbow trout are great. Check out the variety of cooking methods, including sautéing, broiling, grilling, and baking with herbs, spices, and olive oil.
- Beans and legumes: All are great sources of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Throw them into salads and casseroles.
- Fruit: Fruits have antioxidants galore that help keep your cells “younger,” along with fiber and micronutrients that help to protect all of the human body.
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, barley, and whole wheat help lower blood pressure. Loaded with B vitamins and fiber, these should be a staple of your healthy plate.
- Vegetables: Love all those deep-colored veggies, including carrots and winter squash, which have carotenes that help fight oxygen-related damage in the body. Add beets, too, with their power to lower blood pressure.
- Nuts: Lower your LDL cholesterol and blood pressure with the crunchiest of foods! Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and peanuts are your best snacking friends. Make sure to include a handful daily, but buy unsalted.
- Chocolate: Dark, which is loaded with flavonoids, is the word for the best chocolate choice. Improved blood flow to the heart and extremities is a fabulous side effect, making that power walk easier!
- Spices: Ginger, garlic, turmeric, oregano, mint, and many others have natural anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to all organs, including the heart.
- Plant stanols and sterols: Phytosterols are natural substances that have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and are added to select margarines (without trans fats). Read the labels to find the products that provide these positive heart helpers.
- Nix the trans fats.: Read labels carefully, and look for these fats in baked goods and prepared snack foods. Avoid them like the plague!
Eating more nutritious foods that lead to a healthier heart is the best goal. However, the question is how to turn that goal into action. Preparation is key! Tuck your heart-smart snacks into your pockets and spend some quality time preparing food so you can come home to a great dinner. Every small change you make is a big plus for your heart health!