3 Easy Tips towards a Healthy Heart

3 Easy Tips towards a Healthy Heart

February is the month dedicated to your heart health as it is also the month that temptations of chocolates and other sweets may be most prevalent. You can still enjoy these foods in moderation and calm that sweet tooth while decreasing the amount of unhealthy fats that are detrimental to a healthy heart. You most likely know that eating healthy can decrease your heart disease risk, but changing your habits is difficult. A recent article published by the Mayo clinic suggests following some simple steps to a healthier happier heart.

1. Limit Unhealthy Fats and Cholesterol

You’ve heard time and time again that fat is bad and eating fats means more fat around those hips and thighs. So how do you reduce that unwanted blood cholesterol that increases the plaque buildup within your vascular system, clogging arteries, which can lead to a blockage of oxygenated blood flow to your heart. The American Heart Association states that the best way to cut the bad fats (saturated and trans fats) is to limit the amount of solid fats that you consume, such as butter, margarine and shortening. One simple substitution is to use olive oil to grease your pans when cooking versus solid butter. The AHA suggests looking at the labels of food products you consume and take notice to the term “partially hydrogenated”, especially as the first ingredient listed. This is a good indicator that the product has trans fats and oils that are harmful to your heart’s health. Try using mono-saturated fats and poly unsaturated fats found in nuts and seeds. Smart choices such as these may help lower your total blood cholesterol.

Healthy Heart Tips

FATS TO CHOOSE

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Margarine that’s free of trans fats
  • Cholesterol-lowering margarine, such as Benecol, Promise activ or Smart Balance Butter

FATS TO LIMIT

  • Lard
  • Bacon fat
  • Gravy
  • Cream sauce
  • Non-Dairy creamers
  • Hydrogenated margarine and shortening
  • Cocoa butter, found in chocolate
  • Coconut, palm, cottonseed and palm-kernel oils

2. Select Whole Grains

Fiber and whole grains are good for your digestive tract but also help regulate blood pressure and decrease the amount of work your heart has to conduct. Avoid foods with “bleached” in the ingredient label and try to buy whole-wheat flour or 100% whole-wheat products.

Grain products to choose

  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Whole-grain breads
  • High-fiber cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber a serving
  • Brown rice, barley and buckwheat (kasha)
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Oatmeal (steel-cut or regular)

Grains to Avoid

  • Ground flaxseed White, refined flour
  • White bread
  • Muffins
  • Frozen waffles
  • Corn bread
  • Granola bars
  • Egg noodles
  • Buttered popcorn
  • High-fat snack crackers

3. Reduce Your Salt Intake

Sodium or table salt is nearly in everything we eat. However a healthy adult should have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day and those 51 or older, African-American, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should have no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. Eating fresh foods and looking for foods that state “reduced sodium” is a start. Try counting how much sodium intake you have ingested in your normal diet over the period of one day. This is a good indicator and will help you become more conscious of your food choices.

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