In the last post I offered three ways to decrease risk of heart disease: increase fiber with fruits and veggies; choose good carbs such as whole grains (also sources of fiber); and avoid the unhealthy fats. Here are a few more suggestions.
4. Replace unhealthy fats with healthy versions.
Healthy fats include unsaturated types found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, soy products, flax, and wheat germ. Fatty fish are recommended, too, for the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, sardines, mackerel, and halibut. Try to include two servings a week.
Do you like a spread on your bread or potato? Choose soft, tube margarines without tropical oils over the stick variety. Or, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on your bread. But just a bit. A tablespoon is about 125 calories.
Remember that even the healthy fats pack a lot of calories. So replace the unhealthy fats with healthy fats and do not just add them to your current intake.
And, avoid fried foods. Bake, broil, and roast instead.
5. Reduce salt.
We eat too much salt. People who are salt sensitive respond with elevated blood pressure. The guidelines for salt are now at 1500 mg per day, according to the American Heart Association. The Dietary Guidelines are a bit more lenient, suggesting 2300 mg per day for healthy folks. To decrease your salt intake, look for foods with less than 200 mg per serving.
Limit processed foods such as cured meats, pickled foods, canned foods with salt, and savory snacks. Soy sauce is a big offender. Instead, try spices, herbs, and lemon to flavor dishes. Choose the lower salt versions of beef and chicken broth. These may not be at eye level on the grocery shelves, but they are available!
Eating more fruits and vegetables will help, too, because these foods are natural sources of potassium and can help lower blood pressure.
With these guidelines in mind, check out some of the instant rice and potato mixes the next time you are shopping and see how much sodium is in a serving. You will be surprised.
6. Review healthy eating plans to help make dietary changes.
There are several eating plans that can help put these recommendations together. The Mediterranean Diet in one that I like. It includes whole grains, fruits and veggies, less meat, and, of course, olive oil, It is not a low-fat diet, but a well-rounded one.
Or consider the Dash Diet. This diet plan is receiving good press as a way to lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, and prevent kidney stones. The Dash Diet is a medium-fat eating plan, focusing on fruits and veggies, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
7. Reduce the added sugars that you consume
I don’t think that sugar is a poison or the cause of all our ills. But I do think that we eat too much in the form of baked goods and sweetened drinks. A person can drink a lot of calories in the form of sugar before feeling full. And a high intake of sugar can cause weight gain and an increase in triglycerides, which can lead to heart disease. Get your sweet fix from fruit, limit yourself to one serving of juice per day, and drink water flavored with lemon or lime. I do like stevia for an artificial sweetener. But don’t overdo the artificial sweeteners, either.
Bonus: A word on chocolate.
Yes, dark chocolate is heart-healthy. The thought is that compounds in cocoa may protect against heart disease by reducing inflammation and improving cholesterol levels. But remember that chocolate does contain fat, and therefore is a source of considerable calories if eaten in large amounts. If you enjoy chocolate, choose dark chocolate with at least 60% cocoa solids.
Which suggestion will you try today?