Despite its relatively small size, your heart is a powerful organ, pumping almost 2,000 gallons of blood each day throughout your body. A healthy heart is central to a healthy body.
Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t doing enough to keep their hearts healthy, and that’s why heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. While a heart healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol and more, you can make a big impact on your heart health simply by focusing on your diet.
- Skip the salt: Excess use of salt can lead to fluid retention, which in turn can increase blood pressure. Increased blood pressure puts more stress on your heart. Use minimal amounts of salt and instead enhance the flavor of food with herbs and spices. And don’t forget to read your nutrition labels – many processed, pre-packaged items have high amounts of sodium in them. Other tips for low-sodium meals that taste good include using a salt-free spice mix, making your own salad dressings and condiments, using low-sodium broth, draining and rinsing canned beans and vegetables, or using vinegar or citrus juice for a more intense flavor.
- Choose Wisely When You're On the Run. Fast food is generally a no-no, but sometimes you need the convenience of a quick, prepared meal. Choose salads with grilled chicken, but avoid those loaded with cheese, bacon and creamy dressings. A grilled chicken sandwich with sautéed onions for flavor is a good option, or a small sandwich with turkey and lots of veggies is another good choice.
- Choose the Right Fats. Not all fat is bad. In fact, fat has important functions in your body such as absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. We just have to make sure that we are consuming healthy fats, which include unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. These fats can help lower blood cholesterol. Omega 3s can be found in foods like salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, and eggs. Monounsaturated fats can be found in nuts, avocado, and peanut butter. Try to avoid the unhealthy saturated fats, which are found in fatty meat, full-fat dairy, and butter.
- Eat More Fiber. Fiber is important not only in helping with digestion and regularity, but it also plays a role in keeping your cholesterol in check. Aim for 25 grams (women) to 38 grams (men) of fiber a day. To reach your daily goal of fiber intake, have at least three servings of whole grains and five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Beans, lentils, and split peas are also rich in fiber.
Following these tips are just some of the ways you can eat your way to a healthier heart. If you feel that you need more help, meeting with a registered dietitian nutritionist through Shore’s Outpatient Nutrition Counseling program can help you make more permanent heart healthy diet changes. Talk with your physician about your heart health goals and consider scheduling an appointment by calling 609-653-4600, option 5.