10 Tips For Heart Healthy Eating
Following these 10 tips for heart-healthy eating can help prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. Eating heart-healthy doesn't have to mean making radical changes in your diet; it's just merely substituting heart-healthy ingredients in the foods you already eat. Cooking heart-healthy recipes will help you take control of your diet and your health.
- Limit your salt intake. Sodium can aggravate high blood pressure. To help keep your heart healthy, limit your sodium intake to 2,400 mg a day. If you already have high blood pressure or are at a high risk of developing high blood pressure, limit your salt intake to 1,500 mg a day. Substitute salt-free seasonings to give your food flavor.
- Reduce fat consumption. Fat, especially saturated fat, can raise your blood cholesterol levels. Over time, cholesterol builds up inside your blood vessels, causing poor circulation and high blood pressure. Keep your heart healthy by limiting solid fats such as butter and shortening, which contain saturated fat and use monounsaturated fats such as olive oil instead.
- Eat less meat. You don't have to go fully vegetarian in order to have a heart-healthy diet. However, meat--especially red meat--is high in cholesterol and fat. Limit your fat and cholesterol intake by replacing red meat with heart-healthy proteins, such as skinless chicken breast, fish, low-fat dairy and beans.
- Eat more fish. Salmon, trout, herring and other fatty fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Diets rich in heart-healthy omega-3s help reduce blood cholesterol and lower blood pressure. If you don't like fish, you can always find omega-3 fatty acids in supplement form or add ground flaxseeds (another rich source of omega-3s) to your morning cereal.
- Substitute whole grains. Fiber, a major component of whole grains, helps regulate your blood pressure. Whole grains are very easy to substitute into your normal diet: just use brown rice when you would use white rice, whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta, whole-wheat flour instead of white flour and so on. Start off your day with a heart-healthy breakfast of fiber-rich oatmeal or bran muffins.
- Add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Heart-healthy vegetables and fruits are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. They also provide low-calorie, low-fat and cholesterol-free substitutes for common snacks, such as potato chips or candy. Try eating one piece of fruit with breakfast, snacking on apples or carrot sticks and adding a salad to your dinner to incorporate more fresh fruits and veggies into your diet.
- Use low-fat cooking methods. You can eliminate a lot of fat from your diet just by changing your cooking methods. Instead of deep-frying, for example, try baking, microwaving or steaming food or sauteeing it in a small amount of heart-healthy olive oil. Reducing unnecessary fat that doesn't improve the food's flavor will allow you to indulge in other areas.
- Avoid processed foods. Frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes and other packaged foods may be convenient, but they contain high levels of sodium and fat and don't give you the freedom to substitute heart-healthy ingredients. Try cooking a large batch of a heart-healthy recipe and freezing it in meal-sized portions, so you can eat a heart-healthy diet without having to cook every day.
- Watch your portion sizes. It does you no good to know how much fat, cholesterol and sodium are in foods if you don't know how much of the food you're consuming. You don't have to go crazy and weigh everything you put in your mouth, but do pay attention to what you're eating and how it compares to the suggested serving size.
- Treat yourself. A heart-healthy diet is about the balance of the food you eat, not whether every single individual element is heart-healthy. Indulge in a treat every once in a while; complete abstinence from "fun" foods can encourage you to binge or stop your heart-healthy diet entirely.