Home Health 5 ways to make your meals heart healthy

5 ways to make your meals heart healthy

SALT LAKE CITY – More than 600,000 Americans die of heart disease each year – accounting for one in four deaths – making them the leading cause of death in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Regardless of age, lifestyle or family and medical history, incorporating healthier lifestyles is certainly a step in the right direction. Healthy does not have to be difficult or annoying. If you choose nutritious foods that taste good and find the physical activities you like, you can create healthy habits that work for you. Small changes can add up and have long-term effects on your health.

You've probably heard that you should be advised to spend 30 minutes of physical activity several days a week to manage health problems such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. However, nutrition plays a big role in your long-term health – especially when it comes to your heart. Here are five recommendations to make your meals heart-healthy.

The 2015-2020 Nutrition Guidelines recommend that Americans consume less than 2300 mg of sodium per day as part of a healthy meal. Excess sodium is associated with high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.

Although our body needs sodium for a variety of processes, too much of processed foods, restaurant meals and even home-cooked meals can raise blood pressure. Instead of seasoning your food with salt, consider using herbs and spices as an alternative to give your food flavor and variety. Many even act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

From garlic, basil and rosemary to cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, there are many herbs and spices that give you the spice you need to make your taste buds happy.

Fat has long been criticized in the American diet. This is due to the fact that trans fats and too many saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease and raise cholesterol levels.

However, not all fats are bad. Unsaturated fats found in a variety of foods such as olive oil, avocados, flax seeds, walnuts and fish can reduce the risk of heart disease if eaten in moderation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. They are considered to be essential fatty acids, which means our bodies can not make them, and we have to get them out of our diet. Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (especially fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and albacore tuna). The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish every week. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed and walnuts.

Choosing lean protein options is a wise choice as they contain less saturated fats. Poultry and fish without skin as well as eggs, beans, lentils and nuts are an excellent choice for lean protein. If you want to eat red meat, you should look for leaner cuts such as round, sirloin or sirloin steak and roast.

At home, you cook your protein in a healthy way with no added saturated or trans fats. For example, try not to deep-fry your chicken, but to bake or fry it. Removing visible fat before cooking and draining fat after cooking may also be helpful. You can even go one step further and go meat-free one day a week.

Most people will not claim that fruits and vegetables are good for you. However, the recommendation to include more plants in your diet does not just cover fruits and vegetables. Nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains are also valid here. Plant foods are a good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

In addition to keeping your heart healthy, nutrients in plants can help to maintain many functions in the body, such as: Cell formation, transport of oxygen through the blood, regulation of the thyroid, and maintenance of a healthy immune system. In particular, dietary fiber can improve cholesterol levels while reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.

During the mealtime you can fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables to get started. Then choose a whole grain bread that you can add to your meal. It does not have to be the same boring thing at every meal. You can mix it and select a variety of plant foods that you can include in your diet daily.

As fats were avoided in the 1990s, sugar is now the food that is demonized in our diet. But like fats, not all sugars are the same. There are natural sugars and added sugars. Natural sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose). Sugar supplements are sugars and syrups that are added to foods during preparation – whether in the factory or at home.

Natural sugar is commonly found in foods with beneficial nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Added sugars do not provide nutritional benefits to your diet and add extra calories that can lead to weight gain, which can worsen heart health. Added sugars include, but are not limited to, white sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup and maple syrup.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugar in our diet to about 6 teaspoons a day for women and about 9 teaspoons a day for men. Although you should limit the amount of added sugars, you do not have to get rid of them completely. Small amounts of sugar can be used to supplement nutrient-rich foods such as oatmeal or Greek yogurt and to improve the taste. These low levels of whole foods are healthier than eating low-nutrient, high-sweetened foods.

Food planning and cooking at home can make your kitchen hearty. Choosing a healthy diet based on a variety of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats is a sure way to eat healthier.

More from this author:

Brittany Poulson

About the author: Brittany Poulson

Brittany Poulson is a Utah registered nutritionist and certified diabetes consultant. She shares her passion for health, nutrition and nutrition on her blog, www.yourchoicenutrition.com, where she encourages you to lead a healthy life in her unique way.

Publisher's Note: Everything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be interpreted. Always ask your doctor or other qualified doctor if you have questions about a medical condition; All opinions, statements, services, offers or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author or distributor and not those of KSL. KSL does not endorse the accuracy or reliability of any opinions, information or statements made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims any liability for any action taken or not taken based on the content of this article.

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