Heart disease affects millions of people and is America’s leading cause of death. The good news however, is that following a heart healthy diet can reduce your risk for both developing and dying from heart disease by helping you maintain a healthy weight, improve your cholesterol levels and control high blood pressure. Here are some dietary strategies to help you follow a heart healthy diet:
1) Follow a DASH style eating plan: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan helps to prevent and control high blood pressure, which can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Following a DASH style plan means eating a diet that is and rich in fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods. The DASH plan also emphasizes whole grain products, fish, lean meats and nuts. It is rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber and low in total and saturated fat and cholesterol. To learn more about how to follow the DASH Diet, visit: www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
2) Reduce your sodium intake: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams. Those who are 51 and older, African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should aim for a daily sodium intake of no more than 1500 milligrams. To lower your sodium intake limit the amount of sodium that you add to food on your plate and when cooking and instead add flavor to foods by using herbs and spices. Also when buying processed and prepared foods, make sure to read the food label and look for “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” products.
3) Choose your fats wisely: Limit saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your total calorie intake and eat as few trans fats as possible. Instead choose healthy fats including mono and polyunsaturated sources. To do this, try substituting butter, lard, shortening and stick margarine for olive or canola oil. Also choose lean meats (beef loin and round cuts, boneless skinless chicken breast, turkey cutlets, pork loin, etc.) and eat more seafood, especially the higher fat varieties like salmon and tuna which are rich in heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Choose low-fat or fat free dairy products which have the same nutrients as the full fat varieties minus the fat. To reduce trans fats, check food labels for trans fats and limit your intake of foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils as one of the main ingredients.
4) Limit intake of dietary cholesterol- Keep your dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day. Cholesterol is found in foods from animal sources such as meat and dairy foods so choose lean meats and low fat or fat free dairy foods. Also pay attention to portion sizes and trim visible fat from meat whenever possible. When cooking, instead of frying, choose leaner cooking methods such as grilling, baking or broiling. When it comes to eggs, despite containing some fat and cholesterol, they are packed with nutrients and can fit into a heart healthy diet. In fact, new research shows they are lower in cholesterol than we once thought. According to the USDA, one large egg contains about 185 mg of cholesterol so it is possible to eat an egg each day and still stay below the recommended 300 mg of cholesterol per day. If you want to include an egg in your daily meal plan, make sure to choose low cholesterol foods throughout the day and if you want more than one egg, consider combining one whole egg with egg whites.
5) Fiber up- Fiber, especially soluble fiber, may help to lower cholesterol by binding to fatty substances in the body and helping to eliminate them. To increase your intake of fiber rich foods, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
Please note: The information provided here is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any particular illness or condition, nor is it intended to support any particular product or service. You should always consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your healthcare routine.