Eat Smart for Your HeartBy Vivek Sailam, MD, Cardiologist – Virtua Cardiology
Knowing which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit is a powerful way to prevent heart disease and improve your overall health.
Here are six easy ways to eat smart for your heart.
Eat the Rainbow
Eating foods of different colors are a fun way to incorporate more vibrancy and vegetables onto your plate.
Dark-green leafy vegetables help the body break down homocysteine, an amino acid that’s linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Natural sources of fiber and antioxidants include spinach, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, and broccoli.
Purple foods such as eggplant, beets, purple potatoes, and cauliflower are a great addition to your menu. Purple fruits and vegetables are rich in anthocyanins, which studies have shown may benefit brain health, help to lower inflammation, and fight and heart disease and cancer. Purple produce offers other key vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins B and C, fiber, and potassium.
Red, orange, and yellow vegetables are high in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that helps fight oxidation, which leads to damage in the blood vessels. Try to include more foods like butternut squash, red and yellow peppers, and carrots.
If possible, choose organic vegetables and fruit, which are grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Eat Only Healthy Fats
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they help improve your cholesterol levels, lowering your risk for heart attack and stroke. Good sources of mono and polyunsaturated fats include fatty fish (such as salmon), tofu, avocado, olive oil, and nuts, such as walnuts.
Avoid trans fats altogether. Skip food with the words “partially hydrogenated oils” or “hydrogenated” on their labels. Also, avoid eating fried foods, which are cooked in very unhealthy vegetable oils.
Eat Lean Protein Sources and Reduce Fatty Meats
Lean proteins feed your body without providing unhealthy fats—which means think beyond steak for dinner. Limit your red meat consumption to lean cuts and serve it in smaller-sized portions. Instead, try fish like salmon, trout, and tuna, which contain omega-3 fats and help lower your triglyceride and blood pressure levels. White, black, and kidney beans also provide fiber as well as protein.
As with produce, choose organic meats and fish if possible. Organic meats and fish are raised free of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Be Selective of Carbs
Carbohydrates are all the sugars, fiber, and starches in food that give your body energy. But some carbs are better for you than others. Eat “good” carbs from whole-food sources (such as squash or sweet potatoes) rather than processed and refined “bad” carbs (like white bread and pasta). Try to avoid candy, chips, cookies, and other sources of sugary carbs.
Watch What You Drink
Water is the best choice for a drink, as it has no calories and is important for every cellular process in your body. Beware of soda, alcohol, and other juices or sugary drinks, which are loaded with empty calories and sugar.
Look Beyond Well-Known Brands
When shopping for healthy foods, look beyond the well-known brands that dominate supermarket shelves. European food products, for example, often have less sugar and gluten. Asian food markets, which offer fresh fish and produce not found in your regular grocery store, also sell items with less sugar and additives.
Taking these steps to enhance your diet will help your heart beat strong and continue to improve your overall health!
Need help starting a heart-healthy diet? A Virtua cardiologist can help. To make an appointment, call 856-350-4655.
Updated November 18, 2020