Heart Healthy Diet

When most people think of heart disease, they either think about chest pains and other symptoms or ways to prevent these diseases.The heart is the body’s most powerful organ and there are several ways you can keep it healthy and strong. Let’s look at what heart disease is and how eating a heart healthy diet can help protect it from disease.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is more than experiencing a heart attack or chest pains. While these symptoms are cause for concern, heart disease goes beyond these surface symptoms. Any issue that affects the heart is referred to as heart disease. Conditions such as coronary artery disease (CAD), pulmonary stenosis, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, or congenital defects fall under heart disease. 

What Is Considered A Heart Healthy Diet?

Eating a heart healthy diet is the best step you can take to strengthen your entire body, not just your heart. But what exactly is included in this diet? For starters, this diet simply means cutting back on foods that offer little nutritional value. Food loaded with high cholesterol and saturated fats only add to plaque build-up in your arteries.

Putting together a heart healthy eating plan doesn’t have to seem stressful. Start with small steps such as eliminating one food at a time and replacing it with a better one. Go for foods that are high in minerals and vitamins like dark, leafy greens and omega acids. 

What Should You Not Eat On A Heart Diet?

Before we focus on the best, heart healthy foods, let’s take a look at what you should not eat on a heart diet. Here’s a look at a few foods you should try and avoid. 

  • Sugars, Fats, and Salts -  These increase your risk for heart attacks
  • Fatty foods - Foods like bacon contain high salts and saturated fats which trigger high blood pressure 
  • Fried foods - Fried foods raise the risk of obesity and diabetes since they add extra calories and sodium to your food. 
  • Red meats - Too much leads to high cholesterol and oftentimes, diabetes. If you plan red mean on your menu, go for the leaner cuts.
  • Processed meats - Processed and deli meats are very high in sodium. 
  • Simple carbohydrates - These are also called refined carbohydrates and include white breads, rice, and pastas which offer zero nutritional value. 
  • Alcohol - Alcohol contains sugar and extra calories that increase blood pressure and fat in the body. Drinking alcohol in moderation isn’t a problem unless you suffer from high blood pressure or other heart disease. 
  • Butter - Too much butter quickly increases cholesterol levels. Cooking with olive oil is a healthier alternative and adds great flavor.

These are many specific foods that fall under these categories you want to avoid for a heart healthy diet. The good news is that there are many alternatives out there that taste great and help you have a healthy body. Let’s look at those now. 

What Are 10 Healthy Foods?

Keeping your heart healthy is more than just avoiding all the “bad foods.” Making small, smart eating choices will make a big difference for your heart. Here’s a look at 10 healthy foods that will give you more energy, focus, and aid in heart health.

Omega-Rich Foods

Foods that contain omega fatty acids, such as fish, help boost heart health. Choosing fish that are high in LC Omega-3 help regulate the heart’s rhythm, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation in the body. Some popular choices include fresh-caught fish like salmon, trout, lobster, and oysters.  

Whole Grain Oats & Barley

Eating foods that lower cholesterol is essential for heart health. Whole grain oats and barley are great for lowering cholesterol and regulating blood pressure. They contain beta-glucans which attach to any harmful acid and cholesterol in the digestive tract and then absorb them.

Dark Leafy Greens

The body needs an abundance of vitamins and minerals so it can maintain good health. Some vitamins are more essential than others, such as Vitamin A, C, E, and Vitamin K. Spinach, kale, mustard and collard greens, and swiss chard are popular options that help rid the body of toxins and prevent disease.

Beets

Studies have shown that beets help lower your blood pressure. They’re a versatile food so you can eat them cooked, raw, or even juiced. The high source of nitric oxide keeps your blood vessels pumping and reduces inflammation.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a wonderful snack alternative when you feel hungry between meals, and help you incorporate more omega-3’s into your diet. Filled with magnesium and potassium, a small serving offers huge benefits. 

Olive Oil 

Monounsaturated fats are found in oils and help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol. Cooking with olive oil or using it as a salad dressing base is the easiest way to add it to your diet. 

Avocado

Avocados also contain monounsaturated fats and can help control insulin levels. Add them to your salads or even whole grain toast.

Legumes

Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans, are high in fiber which helps filter out toxins in the body. They don’t contain cholesterol and are also high in minerals like magnesium and zinc. 

Dairy (Low-Fat)

If dairy is an essential part of your diet, consider the low-fat option. Higher fats increase your risk of inflammation. The low-fat option does provide health benefits like lowering your blood pressure. 

What Is A Cardiac Diet Menu Plan?

A cardiac diet menu plan is another name for a heart healthy diet plan. When you pair a healthy diet with exercise, you’ve got a great combination for heart health. A cardiac diet menu consists of nutrient-rich foods like those we looked at above. Dark leafy greens, omega-3 foods, and lean proteins are essentials for your menu plan.

What Is The Best Food To Prevent A Heart Attack?

There is no one specific food that prevents a heart attack. Rather, you should concentrate on eating specific food groups. The best foods to prevent a heart attack include:

  • Nuts & seeds
  • Dark, leafy greens that are rich with Vitamin A
  • Lean poultry like chicken or turkey
  • Omega-3 rich foods such as salmon and olive oil

The best foods to prevent a heart attack are those that are free from saturated fats and refined sugars. 

What Are The 6 Best Diets For Your Heart Health?

In this article, we’ve looked at many different foods that help keep your heart healthy. Taking heart-healthy foods and making a plan is the best way to ensure you’re getting all the right nutrients in your diet. Here’s a look at the 6 best diets for your heart health.

Vegan or Vegetarian 

Although eating an all-vegan or vegetarian diet may seem like another bandwagon diet, it’s very good for your heart. These diets are free from all meat and fish. Other protein sources such as legumes, nuts, or whole soy products like tofu offer enough protein for your diet.

TLC Diet

Also known as the Therapeutic Lifestyle changes diet, the TLC diet focuses on renewing your entire lifestyle with both diet and exercise. Following this carefully regimented plan, you eat foods that are high in soluble fibers like beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables. This balances out cholesterol and weight levels.  

Mediterranean Diet

Studies have shown that consuming a Mediterranean diet lowers your chance of heart disease.  Based on food choices from Greece and part of Italy, the Mediterranean diet includes whole- grain foods that regulate cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure. The diet emphasizes food such as:

  • Legumes
  • Fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Olive oil
  • Whole grains

You can also eat these foods in moderation:

  • Eggs and low-fat dairy
  • Poultry
  • Red wine

As with all diets, you should consult your doctor for advice on the best option for you. 

Low-Carb Option

Unlike other diet options, the low-carb diet doesn’t eliminate carbohydrates. It does, however, reduce the intake to no more than 40% of your daily diet. These carbohydrate choices should contain whole grains rather than refined options.

Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian diet is the perfect option for people who want to eat both plant-based foods and meat. The diet focuses on plant-based eating with some meat in moderation. It still encourages you to eat whole foods and avoid processed products. 

DASH Diet

The DASH diet, also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, works to help prevent hypertension or high blood pressure. As it does this, it also decreases your risk of heart disease. This diet works similarly to the Mediterranean diet by incorporating whole foods and limiting others like refined sugars and processed foods. It’s also important to limit sodium intake as it raises blood pressure.

 

Resources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118 
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/26/health/best-foods-for-heart/index.html 
  3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/cardiovascular-disease/preventing-cvd/