What makes a meal heart healthy? It is important for you to understand what makes a meal heart healthy. You should be eating heart healthy meals on a regular basis.
Is there such a thing as a “heart healthy diet”? Sure, it depends on who you ask. The answer to this question has a lot of moving pieces that could and likely will be interpreted differently from person to person. Let’s take a look at what makes a meal heart healthy.
What Makes a Heart-Healthy Food?
There’s a lot more to heart health than just cutting out junk food.
There’s a lot more to heart health than just cutting out junk food. Keeping your heart healthy means managing stress levels, keeping blood pressure in check and getting enough sleep in addition to eating well. Eating for a healthy heart means cutting back on certain foods and making sure you’re getting enough of others. While diet alone isn’t the quick fix to ensuring heart health, it is a great place to start. Here’s what to know about what makes a heart-healthy food and how to get more of them in your diet.
Foods to Limit for Heart Health
Saturated Fats – Butter, high-fat meats, coconut, palm oil, fried foods and full-fat dairy products are just some of the places you’ll find saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 7 percent of calories should come from saturated fat. That’s about 16 grams on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Trans Fasts – Processed foods once used high amounts of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) to improve texture and increase shelf life, but science has taught us they’re even worse for your heart than saturated fats. For this reason, with guidance from the WHO, trans fats have been banned from food manufacturing. It continues to be an arduous process, but certainly worth it for heart health.
Cholesterol (but not really) – Dietary cholesterol (what’s found in food) differs from the blood cholesterol levels seen on lab tests. As mentioned above, a diet too high in saturated fat is the primary culprit for increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. There are some foods that are high in both saturated fat and cholesterol and those should be avoided but foods like shrimp and eggs that are low in saturated fat are not as concerning.
High Sodium Foods – High-sodium foods like salty snacks, restaurant and processed foods packaged foods can aggravate blood pressure. Keep your intake below 2,300 milligrams per day (or 1,500 milligrams if you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure). Following the DASH diet can also be a beneficial way to help keep your sodium intake and blood pressure in check.
Foods to Eat More of for Heart Health
Fruits & Veggies – Low in calories but full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, you can never go wrong with adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. If you’re looking for new ways to try more plants, consider trying out plant-based meals and smoothies at least once a week.
Soluble Fiber – Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that’s incredible for your body. It can help lower LDL cholesterol, keeps you feeling fuller longer and can contribute to better digestion (yay for gut health). This type of fiber found in many foods you likely eat regularly like oats, beans, lentils and carrots.
Omega-3 Fats – The majority of Americans don’t get enough of this essential nutrient. Omega-3 plays a major role in overall wellness and mental health. It’s important for brain health and may even contribute to stress reduction — also important for heart health. Dig into salmon, tuna, walnuts, chia, flax and sardines on a regular basis.
Delicious Foods That Are Heart-Healthy
If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a history of heart problems, you have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. You can lower your risk by making this small change: At each meal, choose foods that are good for your heart.
Most diets are based on foods you shouldn’t eat. Instead, take a positive approach and focus on foods that are good for you.
Eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The fiber in these foods helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Put these on your plate with every meal to reach these daily amounts: At least 5 cups of fruits and vegetables and three 1-ounce servings of whole grains a day.
Eat more beans, legumes (like lentils), seeds, and nuts. Your weekly target: 4 servings of either nuts, seeds, or legumes such as black beans, garbanzos (also called chickpeas), or lentils.
Put healthier fats to work for you. Favor unsaturated fats, such as canola, olive, and peanut oils. These oils are less likely than butter or lard to clog your arteries.
Eat fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including albacore tuna, salmon, and sardines. Omega-3s seem to lower triglycerides, fight plaque in your arteries, lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk of abnormal heart rhythms.
Eat lean protein. Make beans, nuts, fish, and chicken your mainstays, and keep portions in check. The American Heart Association suggests you eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish a week. Some cuts of meat have more fat than others, so look for leaner choices. If you’re craving some type of processed meat — bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, sausage, chicken nuggets, or jerky — limit those, too.
Tips to Care for Your Heart
Tips to Care for Your Heart
Feed your body regularly. When you skip a meal, you’re more likely to overeat later. For some people, eating 5 to 6 mini-meals works best to limit calories, help control blood sugars, and regulate metabolism. For others, 3 meals a day works better, since extra meals can trigger overeating. See which approach works for you.
Experiment with new flavors. Try using dried herbs and spices instead of salt, which can drive up your blood pressure. For chicken, try using rosemary, garlic, or sage. For fish, try dill or tarragon. Vinegars are another way to liven up ho-hum food.Related Article
Celebrate each pound you lose. Small steps add up. Dropping even 5 or 10 pounds — even if you’re still technically overweight afterward — will cut your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
As important as your diet is, you’ll also do your heart a favor by doing these things:
Exercise. Be as active as possible. It strengthens your heart, improves blood flow, raises “good” HDL cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar and body weight. According to the American Heart Association, your goal should be 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.
If you smoke, quit. No matter how many years you’ve been smoking, know this: Research shows that quitting works as well — if not better — than just about any heart drug available. Quitting now will lower your risk of death from heart disease by 33%.