The heart has always been a symbol of love, but it is also a symbol of life. We have all heard over time how eating right and exercising regularly can make us healthier, but do we really know how, or in fact why?
The number one killer of women and men in the United States is cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. This disease is the leading cause of disability, preventing people from enjoying life and work. Over 300 billion dollars is spent on medical services and medications related to cardiovascular disease in the United States every year. Sadly, many cardiovascular disease deaths could have been prevented at home through healthier habits, healthier living spaces, and better control over conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
In a perfect world, I would have time each day to exercise for as long as I want, then come home to a warm, healthy cooked meal made by my personal chef. Let’s face it, life isn’t like that for most of us. In our worlds, we eat quick meals on the run and fit in some form of exercise (if any) between work, family, errands, chores, and our children’s after school activities.
Here is where the problem lies for the majority of people: 1.We never think heart disease is going to happen to us. 2. We don’t know what kind of dietary changes to make that will help prevent heart disease AND fit into our busy lifestyles.
The bad news – heart disease can happen to anyone. The good news – keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle helps prevent heart disease and is not as hard as it sounds. The key lies in the overall pattern of our choices. No single food can make us magically healthy, but incorporating a variety of healthy foods into our diets will help reduce sugar levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and even weight.
So, here are three easy steps you can use for a healthier diet for a stronger heart and healthier body:
1) Cut out Saturated and Trans Fats.
Limiting saturated fats and cutting out trans fats from your diet is one of the most important changes you can make. Saturated and trans fats both raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol level, which can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, unsaturated fats are essential for good health. They include Omega 3 fatty acids, Omega 6 fatty acids, and monounsaturatd fats like almonds and cashews.
2) Choose foods that help lower cholesterol.
Unhealthy cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart disease, so lowering your cholesterol is a good start to a healthier heart. Your diet plays a key role in controlling your cholesterol. It is important to know which foods lower your cholesterol and which make it worse. Try lowering your cholesterol with Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish or fish oil supplements. Eating salmon or herring two times a week helps reduce cholesterol.
3) Turn to high fiber foods.
I high fiber diet provides nutrients that lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full, which can help you eat less and lose weight. Most of the fiber we need is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Also, here’s are some specific foods to avoid/focus on:
Avoid: Saturated fats from red meat and dairy; Trans fats from partially hydrogenated or deep fried foods.
Focus on: Healthy fats like olive oil, raw nuts, flax seed, avocado, fish oils.
Avoid: White breads, egg breads, refined rice or pasta, granola-type cereals.
Focus on: Fiber cereals, breads, legumes, and pasta made from whole grains.
Avoid: High sodium packaged foods.
Focus on: Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables prepared without butter.
Avoid: Egg yolks, whole or 2% milk, whole milk yogurts and cheeses.
Focus on: Egg whites, egg substitutes, 1% or skim milk, non-fat and low-fat yogurts and cheeses.
Avoid: Red meat, bacon, fried chicken, sausages.
Focus on: Fish, shellfish, poultry.
Remember that incorporating healthy snacks and meals into your diet is a great another way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
For more helpful information on choosing the right foods for a healthier lifestyle, log on to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.
We’re sure you’re now ready to eat a healthier diet. Which of the foods mentioned above will you incorporate into your diet first? Share your thoughts with us below!