What Foods Are Heart Healthy?
The first thing to know about what foods are heart healthy is that they originate in sources most people are familiar with such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, breads, and grains, all of which can be found at local grocery stores and restaurants. The trick is learning which of these items are optimum to heart health and figuring out how to enjoy them in moderation. Even with the good comes the bad; prepared foods found in the grocery store and in restaurants can start with the finest of ingredients but become diluted during processing with large quantities of fats, sugars, and salt.
- Fruits. When shopping for fruit look for rich, vibrant color such as red and purple grapes, assorted berries, and peaches; these fruits tend to have more vitamins and minerals than their paler counterparts. However, do not discount selections like bananas, apples, oranges, and melons; these fruits offer higher fiber contents. Strive for two servings of fruit somewhere throughout the course of the day in order to maintain the balance that keeps the heart happy. Fresh fruit is always best but frozen fruits that are prepared without added sugars are also good purchases. Be careful of canned and dried fruit; while they may have a longer shelf life, they also require large amounts of salt and sugar to process.
- Vegetables. Fresh vegetables are as essential as air to a heart healthy diet. Look for vegetables that are dark in color like spinach, carrots, tomatoes, and eggplant. The darker color keeps the vegetable high in minerals and vitamins while lighter vegetables, like paler fruits, are a good source of fiber. Potatoes, corn and onions are necessary additions and can leave a person with a fuller feeling than other vegetables. Enjoy at least two servings of vegetables during the course of the day to maintain a dietary balance. Frozen vegetables are a sound purchase, but be careful when buying canned vegetables; look for ones packed in water with little to no salt.
- Dairy. Milks, cheeses, eggs, and butter are almost mandatory compliments to any meal. When buying milk, opt for skim or low-fat varieties without additional flavorings such as chocolate or strawberry. Unadulterated milk is best and does not possess the high sugar content of flavored milks. Select cheeses that are low-fat or fat- free like mozzarella and provolone. Real butter contains high levels of trans fats, instead choose easy spread margarine that offer 0% trans fat. When cooking with eggs, choose an egg substitute or opt for using the egg whites only; yolks are high in fat and cholesterol.
- Fish. Fish such as herring, trout, and salmon are highly recommended for a happy heart. Partaking of fish two to three times a week helps to balance fats and cholesterol. Season fish with spices and lemon while avoiding heavy cream sauces. Stay away from fried and battered fish as they defeat the purpose at hand.
- Meat & Poultry. Select lean cuts of meat remembering to trim the fat before grilling or broiling. Choose poultry that is light in color staying away from the darker, fattier meats like legs and thighs. Avoid deep frying, heavy sauces, and excess butter when cooking meat or poultry instead opt for clean, crisp tastes of citrus and spices.
- Breads & Grains. Look for whole wheat and multi grain breads as opposed to distilled white breads. Try to limit baked goods such as cakes, doughnuts, and pastries as these usually have high quantities of sugar and salt and are often baked with egg yolks. Simple oats and whole grain cereals without added sugary coatings are also good sources of fiber.
- Additions. Beans and peas are also good additions to include in a heart healthy diet and can sometimes provide the equivalent or more nutrition than a serving of meat. Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein when eaten in moderation. Olive and canola oils are preferable to vegetable or corn oils when cooking. A nonfat cooking spray is even better than oils. Salad dressings containing little or no fat should be selected and used in small quantities.