The Best Ways to Nourish Your Heart

In the same way that we maintain our vehicles and front lawns, we also need to take care of our bodies, especially our hearts. After all, your heart is a muscle and you have to fuel it properly.

General healthful eating habits such as prioritizing plant based foods, lean proteins, legumes, whole grains, fish, seafood and healthy fats are the fundamentals. The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are two very well researched styles of eating that one could use as a guideline to eat better.

If you’re looking for some simple tips for fueling your heart, here are some things to be mindful of below.

Eat Less…

Sodium: A low-sodium diet could help you prevent or better manage high blood pressure. Even in the absence of high blood pressure, lower sodium intake can be beneficial as we age. You should consult with your doctor about the benefits of salt restriction for you individually.

More than 75% of the salt intake in the U.S. diet originates from processed foods and not table salt. Generally, if you are cooking more often at home, and prioritizing whole foods as staples in your diet, you are consuming less sodium by default! When cooking, try flavoring your meals with salt-free spices, herbs, citrus oils, and vinegar to cut back on salt. Also, different types of salt have become trendy, but these various salts are not any less salty. Sea salt, for example, contains about 40% sodium, like the typical table salt.

The most common culprits of higher salt foods aside from packaged products include breads, cheese, soups, deli meats, beef jerky, restaurant food, salted crackers/chips, and salted nuts. You do not need to eliminate these foods, simply be mindful of your daily consumption. Sodium can also be found in some beverages, medications, and supplements.

Red Meat and Trans Fats: Consuming a high amount of red meat can also increase your risk for heart disease. Try to minimize the amount of red meat in your diet and opt for fish, chicken and legumes as your primary sources of protein.

Trans fats, often added to foods to increase their shelf stability, can also increase your risk. It can be found in butter, peanut butter, creamers, cream based candies and other fried and processed foods.

Eat More…

Omega 3 (Fats): These are essential for good cholesterol, so incorporate them into your diet! It is recommended to have 3-4 ounces of fatty fish twice per week to meet your needs. Great sources include salmon, tuna, halibut, walnuts, avocados, hemp/flax/chia seeds, eggs (when labeled as a good source of omega-3), olive oil, and canola oil.

Fiber: Fiber can help prevent heart disease and improve your cholesterol, so add veggies and fruit into your day. Don’t like celery? What DO you like? Try to add that to whichever meal is most convenient. If it came out of the ground (e.g., plants, legumes) then you’re making a great choice! Frozen veggies are acceptable and more convenient.

Exercise: Whether or not you have a regular exercise routine is mostly a matter of choosing to make it a habit, being persistent and consistent. We are learning that being fit is likely more significant than a low body mass index (BMI) for heart health and our overall health.

Liz Satterthwaite, RDN, LDN, is a ProMedica dietitian. 

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