The role of diet is crucial in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Diet is one of the key things which impact all other cardiovascular risk factors. But it is really tough to change our eating habits. By fine-tuning our diet and following a few heart-healthy diet tips we can be on our way towards a heart-healthy diet.
1. Size does matter: How much one eats is just as important as what one eats. Overloading our plates, taking second helpings and eating until one feels stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than required. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs. We have to keep track of the number of servings we eat and use proper serving sizes to help control our portions. Eating low-calorie, nutrient-rich food, such as fruits and vegetables, and less of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast food can shape up our diet as well as our heart and waistline.
2. Take more vegetables and fruits: Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fibre. Vegetables and fruits contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help one eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods. So, we should include vegetables and fruits more in our diet.
3. More the fibre, more the good: Whole grains are good sources of fibre which play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. We can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products.
4. Limit intake of unhealthy fats and oils: Limiting how much saturated and trans fats we eat is an important step to reduce our blood cholesterol and lower our risk of coronary artery disease. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaques in our arteries, called atherosclerosis which can increase our risk of heart attack and stroke. The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in our diet is to limit the amount of solid fats like butter, margarine, etc. when cooking and serving. We can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diet by trimming fat off our meat or choosing lean meats. We can also use low-fat substitutions when possible for a heart-healthy diet. When we have to use fats, we should choose monounsaturated fats such as olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower our total blood cholesterol. But moderation is essential. All types of fat are high in calories.
5. Low-fat protein sources are to be taken: Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products and egg whites or egg substitutes are some of our best sources of protein. We should also choose lower fat options such as skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken rather than fried chicken. Fish is another good alternative to high-fat meats and certain types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. The highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish such as salmon. Other sources are flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil. Legumes - beans, peas and lentils - also are good sources of protein and contain less fat and no cholesterol, making them good substitutes for meat. Substituting plant protein for animal protein will reduce our fat and cholesterol intake.
6. Less the salt, more the good: Eating a lot of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. Adults should have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (a teaspoon). People aged 50 or older and people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Although reducing the amount of salt while cooking is a good step, much of the salt we eat comes from canned or processed food such as soups and frozen dinners. Eating fresh food and making our own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt we eat. If one likes the convenience of canned soups and prepared meals, look for ones with reduced sodium.
7. Plan your diet: We should create daily menus selecting food for each meal and snack, emphasizing vegetables, fruits and whole grains. We should choose lean protein sources and limit high-fat and salty food. We should watch our portion sizes and add variety to our menu choices. This helps ensure that we'll get all of the nutrients our body needs. Variety also makes our meals and snacks more interesting.
8. An occasional treat won�t kill you: A candy bar or handful of potato chips won't derail our heart-healthy diet. What�s important is that we should eat healthy food most of the time. With a little planning and a few simple substitutions, we can eat with our heart's content but with our heart in mind.