Your heart plays a huge role in many functions of your body and is worth protecting. Making healthy choices can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Eating a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein can help prevent and manage chronic disease. It is also important to limit the consumption of foods high in unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugar. The 4 tips for a healthy heart below will help you take steps toward a healthy diet.
Fill up on fiber
Fiber is found in plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. It is the part of the plant that the body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber helps us stay full longer, lowers cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar and aids in digestion.
To add more fiber to your day:
- Try switching to whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
- Eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Be sure to eat the peel of vegetables and choose whole fruit over juice.
- Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add them to soups, salads or casseroles.
Choose healthy fats more often
Fat is essential for body function, but it is important to make healthy choices when it comes to the type of fat.
Healthy Fats – Choose these foods more often
- Unsaturated – These fats are generally liquid at room temperature and come mainly from plant products such as nuts, oil and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna and sardines. Unsaturated fats help to lower your cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unhealthy Fats – Choose these foods less often
- Saturated – These fats are generally solid at room temperature and are found in fatty meats such as bacon, sausage and pork as well as animal products like cheese and butter. Saturated fats can raise your bad cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Trans – These fats are found mainly in processed foods like fried foods and baked goods. Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease.
Be mindful of what you drink
Drinking water or non-sugar-sweetened beverages like black coffee or unsweet tea can help lower your risk of heart disease by eliminating excess calories from added sugar that could cause weight gain.
Try flavoring your water by adding sliced lemons, cucumbers and fresh mint or combine 100% fruit juice and carbonated water for a healthier version of soda.
Healthy choices for your heart do not only involve the foods you eat. Exercise is a great way to strengthen and protect your heart from disease. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can also reduce stress.
Try to reach 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Be sure to include activities around the house like cleaning and yard work. Start small and make physical activity fun!