The key to a happy and healthy life is to maintain a healthy heart and to maintain a healthy heart, a healthy lifestyle along with a healthy diet is extremely important. A cardiac diet aims at lowering heart diseases and the amount of cholesterol.
A healthy heart requires variety of foods which include fruits, vegetables, high fiber and low sodium content diet, and limiting unhealthy fats and cholesterols. A focused diet which includes all the heart benefitting factors along with the taste and flavor is a long term cheat to the heart diseases.
What to Eat for a Healthy Heart?
The biggest concern for a healthy diet is the type of food to be consumed which provides the nutrition for a healthy heart. The diet should be rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and both micro as well as macro nutrients. It must be ensured that the diet should also control the body weight along with the cholesterol levels and blood pressure. The daily diet should be focused on below rules:
- Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Regular consumption of whole grains.
- Diet should be rich in low-fat dairy products.
- Skinless poultry and fish food should be consumed.
- Nuts should be in between meals.
- Legumes should be eaten for high protein content.
- Meals should be consumed on the basis of calories required by the individuals.
Apart from following the above rules, below individual foods can be consumed for their high benefits to the heart:
|Fish||Rich in omega-3 fatty acids|
|Nuts||Lowers bad cholesterol and high in omega-3 fatty acids|
|Berries||High in soluble fibre and phytonutrients|
|Flaxseeds||Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, phytoestogens and fibre content|
|Dark Chocolate||High in antioxidants|
|Broccoli||Rich in Vitamin C & E, fibre, folate and potassium|
|Asparagus||Rich in beta-carotene , fibre, folate and is a negative calorie food|
|Tomatoes||Rich in lycopene along with carotenoids and vitamin C|
|Red Wine||Improves good cholesterol levels or HDL|
|Beans||Rich in Vitamin B, minerals and fibres|
|Colorful Vegetables (Red, Yellow and Orange)||Rich in Vitamins, carotenoids and fibres|
Foods to avoid for a Healthy Heart
Just as there are foods that need to be consumed for a healthy heart, similarly, there are a variety of foods, consumption of which should be avoided to maintain a healthy heart. These foods can also be called nutrient poor foods. The quality of such foods is that they are rich in calories but poor in their nutritive value. The key factors to keep in mind while eliminating or reducing the intake of such food in the diet are:
- High Sodium Intake Foods to avoid for Healthy Heart: High amounts of sodium in food causes high blood pressure. The foods with high sodium are:
– Smoked, salted or cured fish, meat and poultry items.
– Frozen foods
– Canned Foods
– Salted nuts
- Elimination of Trans-fat from diet for Healthy Heart: Trans fats increase the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreases the levels of good cholesterol (HDL), thereby increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes. The foods with high trans fat content are:
– Packaged snacks
– Baked food items
– Fried foods
– Solid fats
– Pre-mixed products
– Food items containing partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients.
- Limited consumption of Saturated Fats for Healthy Heart: Saturated fats when consumed in optimal quantity do not cause any harm but excessive consumption can lead to cardiovascular diseases and obesity. The foods with high saturated fat content are:
– Full fat dairy products
– Red Meats
– Skinned poultry items
– Fried Snacks
– Animal fats
– Refined carbohydrates and sugar snacks
– Regular chocolate intake
Steps to follow for getting a Healthy Heart
Even though everyone knows that unhealthy habits increase the risk of heart diseases yet habits are often difficult to change. There are certain tips for a healthy diet if followed conscientiously ensure a healthy heart. These include:
- Checking the intake and size of the servings: This approach helps in identifying the correct portion size to be consumed during the meals. It aims at developing a habit to take the right amount of food and right number of servings ensuring that no over-eating happens.
- Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables: Increased intake of fruits and vegetables allows better nutrient absorption by the body as these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals, contain high dietary fibre, a negative calorie count and prevent the heart diseases.
- Eating more Whole Grains: These have a surplus of nutritional and fibre content with hunger satisfying capacity being an appropriate alternative to refined grains. These also regulate blood pressure and prevent heart disorders. Some examples of whole grains are barley, quinoa, etc.
- Reducing the intake of unhealthy fat: Limiting the consumption of saturated and trans fats in the diet helps in lowering the cholesterol levels, prevent the buildup of plaque along with minimizing the chances of heart attack, strokes and atherosclerosis.
- Switching to Low-fat Protein Sources: Meat, poultry and dairy products are the best known sources of proteins, but an ideal diet can be achieved only by switching to lower fat alternatives of them like lean meat, low fat dairy products. Another good alternative to it are fish which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and helps in lowering the blood fat count. Also leguminous produces like lentils, beans, peas are low fat, cholesterol deficient and rich protein food.
- Limiting the amount of Sodium consumption: Canned, processed and fried foods constitute a very high content of sodium because it helps in preservation but regular consumption of such foods increase the chances of high blood pressure, renal failures and diabetes. Thus, reducing the intake of sodium and switching to fresher alternatives can help in preventing cardiovascular and other disorders.
- Planning of the daily meals and menus: Using the above rules a daily plan can be devised to ensure right diet is being followed thereby reducing the chances of deviation from the right diet.
- Occasional unhealthy indulgence and treats are fine: Everybody likes comfort food and snacking, so occasional cheat to the above rules can be done to ensure that there is a balance in the consumption of foods that are liked and foods that are healthy.
Mediterranean Diet for Healthy Heart
Mediterranean diet is diet similar to all other diet plans but what can be looked upon are the enhanced flavors and favors of olive oil with tradition Mediterranean cuisine. The diet has been proven to lower the buildup of bad cholesterol along with limiting the risk of heart disorders, breast cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic diseases.
Simple steps to Mediterranean Diet:
- Eating should be focused on plant-based foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
- Healthy fat alternatives to butter like olive oil and canola oil must be considered.
- Substituting salt or sodium flavors with herbs and spices.
- Reducing red meat consumption to few times a month and switching to fish and poultry alternatives to at least twice a week.
- Switching to low fat dairy alternatives.
- Regular consumption of red wine (5 ounces for women and men above the age of 65, and 10 ounces for young and middle aged men). It must be noted that daily consumption of wine must not exceed this recommendation as that could lead to health complications.
- Regular Exercising.
- Stay happy and stress free.
- Take pleasure of the diet with family and friends.
Eating healthy and staying fit with a stress free lifestyle is a great way to improve the health of heart. The essence of a great diet is the small steps taken to achieve the goal rather than drastic efforts that go in vain in the mid- journey crisis. To ensure the success and lower the risk of heart disorders, it is required to abide by the tips and ways to a healthy diet plan by switching to healthy alternatives. It is also important to give up the sedentary lifestyle and following a regular exercise regime, meditation or yoga to make certain that the mind is relaxed and rejuvenated.