Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and in some cases, a poor diet is at least partly to blame. The unhealthy fats and sky-high sodium levels in popular processed foods are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and they’re leading many down the path of chronic illness. To make any diet heart-healthier, nutrition experts recommend making these simple changes.
Boost Fiber Intake
There are two types of fiber, each with distinct benefits. Soluble fiber is digestible and helps lower cholesterol. Good sources include oats, beans, oranges, and apples. Insoluble fiber can’t be digested, but it adds bulk to stool and helps keeps body weight under control. Top sources are whole grains, vegetables, and nuts. In America, the average adult’s fiber intake is only 15 grams per day. Increasing consumption toward the total recommended amount of 25 grams per day is an easy heart-healthy move.
Go Vegetarian Twice a Week
Eating your vegetables is much more important than one might think. Animal fats are saturated and contribute to the plaque that narrows coronary arteries and reduces blood flow to the heart. Replacing meat with plant-based proteins like lentils and quinoa twice weekly reduces saturated fat intake and boost the consumption of both fiber and important micronutrients. This will make for a much healthier heart.
Measure Portion Sizes
Eating large portions, even of healthy foods, can lead to weight gain and a rise in cholesterol. It also increases the chance of developing diabetes, a significant risk factor for heart disease. Judging portion sizes takes practice, so use measuring devices if in doubt, and when hunger strikes, increase serving sizes for fruits and vegetables before meats and sweets. It’s also a good idea to prepare and portion meals at the beginning of the week to ensure a healthy diet.
Reduce Sodium Intake
Sodium improves flavor, but it can wreak havoc on your heart. It’s used in abundance by manufacturers to make low-quality foods taste more appealing, but it’s also tricky because some dishes are loaded with excess salt but don’t necessarily taste salty. The American Heart Association has recently adjusted its guidelines and recommends that adults consume 1500 mg of sodium or less daily. Since an average frozen meal for one person can contain that much, reading labels and choosing fresh foods over processed is the easiest way to avoid overindulging.
Eating a heart-healthy diet shouldn’t feel like a punishment, so enjoying a favorite treat now and then is essential to avoid feeling deprived. In the long run, it’s all about balance.