As someone who is very aware of eating healthy, I thought that you might enjoy this great article on how simple it is to have a healthy heart diet.
What is a heart-healthy diet? Views on nutrition are changing all the time. Fats are apparently not as bad as we thought before, sugars have contributed to worsening overall health and sodium is debated; but most experts can agree that as Canadians, we probably get too much on a daily basis from processed foods.
Eating meals rich in lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy will benefit your ticker, as will limiting your intake of sodium (which can increase your blood pressure) and saturated and trans fats, which can cause plaque to form in your arteries.
This being said, there is no single magic food (good or bad) that is the ticket to a heart-healthy diet; rather, the focus should be on overall healthy patterns of eating. Here are 4 tips you can try:
Portion control is one key to a healthy heart. You don’t want to overeat and feel stuffed as this often means that you’ve eaten more calories than you should have. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as processed foods.
Portion control doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple tip to measure portions is by using your hands as an indicator of size. At each meal aim to include the following:
- Protein: Consume a palm size portion of protein each time you eat. Depending on your size and activity level, consuming up to two portions is acceptable. A chicken breast or a lean hamburger patty are great options.
- Carbohydrate: Consume a fist or a tennis ball size of carbs. Cooked brown rice, sweet potato and quinoa are all examples of complex carbohydrates.
- Fat: Consume a thumb of fat. A wedge of avocado or 6-8 almonds will do the trick.
- Vegetables/fruits: Half of your plate should be filled with low carb fruits or vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower.
Choose a rainbow of fruits and veggies to incorporate into your meals. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, they help to protect against diseases as well as boost your immune system.
Every shade represents a different benefit. For example, green foods like spinach and kale offer high levels of potassium, which helps fight heart and kidney disorders and manage anxiety and stress. Where red foods like tomatoes or watermelon are high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can protect the body from multiple diseases. The more variety of colours you incorporate into your food choices, the more benefits you will receive!
Choose lean protein:
Although your body needs protein, it’s important to limit saturated fats and salt. Remember, not all forms of protein are created equal! Lean proteins are foods that are low in fat or contain moderate amounts of healthy fat. Plant-based proteins like legumes, nuts and beans are a great option as they contain less fat and no cholesterol. Lean meat like poultry, fish, as well as dairy products like eggs, are some of the best sources of protein.
Sticking with leaner protein sources doesn’t mean you have to give up all red meat – just opt for lean cuts of beef or pork. Lean meats and plant-based protein are choices that are low in salt but will still satisfy your protein needs while helping to protect your heart!
Choose healthy fats:
Believe it or not, eating fat can actually help you maintain a healthy lifestyle by helping keep your blood sugar in check and keeping you feeling satisfied for longer. Satiating fat leaves you feeling full, which in turn means you are more likely to avoid unhealthy snacks or second helpings.
Your fat intake should make up between 20-35% of your daily calories. Your fat choices should come as much as possible from whole food options as opposed to processed foods. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats have been labelled the ‘good’ fats and part of a healthy diet that can contribute to a healthy heart.
Similar to protein, not all fats are created equal. Some have major health benefits and others aren’t so great for your overall health. For more information on the different types of fats read, ‘The truth about fats.’
The next time that you’re at a grocery store or preparing your next meal, think about the recommendations above to help keep your heart healthy.
‘Dr. Paul Oh’ is Medical Director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network (UHN), and Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto.