Taking care of your heart is such an important part of having a healthy body and living a healthy life. There are so many factors that play a role in heart health including the way we eat, exercise, and also our weight on the scale. The first place to start is to look at what you eat. The food we consume has an impact on blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation and body weight – all of which contribute to heart health and disease. Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on your heart which means that it has to work much harder to carry you through the day compared to if you are at a healthy weight. Therefore, making dietary and lifestyle changes will help decrease body weight which then reduces the pressure on your heart.
Making small changes in the diet can have such a drastic effect on your heart health. There are definitely foods to avoid, but today we would like to discuss both foods you should include in abundance and also those that are best to avoid.
There are many foods that we should include in abundance. It is believed that a Mediterranean style diet which is rich in fish, vegetables, whole grains and also plant oils has exceptional benefits for your heart. Foods to include in your diet include the following:
Fruits and vegetables – it is always best to vary the colors of your fruits and vegetables as much as possible, this way you get a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains – the less refined a product is, the better it is. Whole grains are rich in fiber and food sources include brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, millet and bulgur wheat. Fiber has heart-protective properties and can reduce blood pressure, protect against strokes and may also help manage weight.
Fish – fish are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Having high levels of inflammation can lead to blood vessel damage which can lead to heart disease and strokes. The highest levels of omega 3 are found in salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, but omega 3 is also found in other fish varieties as well as flaxseeds.
Vegetable oils – most vegetable based oils contain a higher level of unsaturated fat, which is considered to be better for your heart, and therefore have a better impact on heart health. All oils are not created equal and therefore some of the better ones to include are olive oil, avocado oil and canola oil.
Nuts and seeds – nuts and seeds contain healthy unsaturated fats which have beneficial effect on heart health.
Plant-based dairy products – using plant based dairy alternatives such as coconut, almond and soy milk very much boosts heart health by getting rid of the saturated fat found in animal based products and still adding calcium and vitamin D to the diet (depending on the brand you buy).
Legumes – legumes including beans, lentils and chickpeas are excellent sources of protein and do not contain the saturated fat that is found in animal proteins. They are also rich in fiber which has heart-protective properties as well as many minerals.
To further protect your heart, there are some foods that is best to eliminate or avoid in the diet. These foods include red meat due to its higher animal fat content. Eggs should also be limited because of the high concentration of saturated fat found in the yolk. More foods to exclude are processed meats, highly refined grains and sugars, high salt-containing foods and sugary drinks.
The bottom line is that making dietary changes and adjustments is extremely important to have the healthiest heart possible. Include the foods that have benefits for your heart as mentioned above and exclude those that are harmful.
Author: Dietitian from www.beyond-nutrition.ae.