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4 Ways to Eat Heart Healthy

Having a healthy diet can help prevent heart disease, and it’s not as hard as one might think. It is important to be mindful of what you are eating whether you are trying to lose, gain, or maintain weight. These four ways to eat heart healthy will help you look and feel your best while protecting your heart.

Remember the Food Pyramid

It’s important to eat a variety of foods from each food group so your body gets plenty of nutrients. According to the USDA’s recommendations, fruits and vegetables should fill half of your plate. One quarter of your plate should be whole grains, and you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the right stuff.

“Many people look at brown foods and think they’re whole grains, but make sure you read the ingredients list first,” said Kate Nellett, a Registered Licensed Dietitian at Abington Memorial Hospital. “The first ingredient should say whole wheat or whole wheat fiber.”

The last quarter of your plate should be protein so think low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. Limit red meat and sugary foods and beverages.

Out With the Bad Stuff

In addition to being high in nutrient-rich foods, a heart-healthy diet is low in nutrient poor foods. The American Heart Association recommends limiting foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients. Stay away from saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Be mindful of what you are eating and read food labels to determine how healthy foods are.

Avoid Added Sugars

Eating too much added sugar can put you at a greater risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the January 2014 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages when they are processed. They include sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit drinks, grain- and dairy- based desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereals, and yeast breads. They do not include the natural sugars in fruit and fruit juices.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar for women and no more than 9 teaspoon of 150 calories a day for men. Sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the largest sources of added sugars in the American diet, with a can of soda containing 35 grams of added sugars which is equivalent to 8.75 teaspoons or 140 calories.

Master the Market

Buying ingredients and cooking at home is usually a healthier option than eating out, but the grocery store can be an intimidating place. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, stock up on raw vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes and fruits for dessert. When buying meat, choose leaner cuts and try to eat fish such as salmon, herring, or trout once or twice a week. Grill or bake fish and meat rather than frying it.

Look for meat substitutes like beans, peas, tofu, and lentils—a one-cup serving of beans can replace a 2-ounce serving of meat, poultry, or fish. If you need to buy oils for cooking, choose ones that are lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol like olive oil, corn oil, canola oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil.

For more information on heart disease prevention, tune in to the next Abington Health live Health Chat on “Preventing Heart Disease” presented by Cardiologist Andrew S. Fireman, MD on Thursday, February 19 at 6 p.m. Sign up and submit your confidential questions here.