Research has shown that heart disease is a leading cause of death in men and women and is considered to be more fatal than all of the cancers combined. Because of this, it is important to take the right precautions to keep your heart in shape and lead a healthy lifestyle. While staying active is paramount to preventing cardiovascular disease, consuming the right foods is just as important. In fact, eating the right foods is said to prevent heart disease by 80%. As the saying goes ‘we are what we eat’! The added benefits of a healthy diet include prevention of debilitating diseases that result in a long and healthy life.
Here are a few tips to help you pick the right foods and reduce the risk of heart disease in the future.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Cardiovascular disease is caused by blocks in the arteries. These blocks can be prevented with a good diet and by staying away from smoking and excessive drinking. Many studies show that having a low-fat diet and incorporating more fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are known to contain fibre, antioxidants, potassium and vitamins C and E. Consuming promotes weight loss, prevents blood sugar spikes that induce hunger and reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. You should eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to get the maximum benefit from a variety of nutrients.
Reduce the amount of sodium in your food
Consuming high levels of sodium is the root cause of high blood pressure and a high-risk factor in heart disease. The recommended level of sodium for adults is no more than 2,300 milligrams a day. Sodium is most commonly found in salt, so the first step is reducing the amount of salt you add to your food. High levels of salt can be found in processed food as well, so try and cook more of your meals at home to help reduce your salt consumption. Another way to reduce the salt in your food is to pick your condiments carefully. Many sodium-free condiments substitutes can be found in supermarkets today.
Incorporate more lean proteins in your food
All fats aren’t bad for you! Incorporating lean meats into your diet that contain good fats can lower your LDL cholesterol (the kind that leads to heart disease). Unsaturated or ‘good’ fats can be found in fish and chicken. Plant-based foods are also great for a healthy heart as they contain fibre. Fibre is incredibly beneficial as it helps you maintain weight and lowers cholesterol. An excellent source of this is beans such as pinto, black or kidney beans.
While consuming lean meats such as fish is good for heart disease, you don’t need to avoid red meat altogether. Just make sure you consume the lean portions of beef or pork and avoid fattier cuts. By including plant-based foods and lean meats in your food, you will have the sufficient amount of protein required to protect your heart.
Stay away from processed foods
All packaged food we consume is processed in some way before it reaches us. Foods are either highly-processed, such as snack foods or are minimally processed like fruits and vegetables, which contain preservatives to prevent spoilage. Consumption of highly-processed foods can lead to high sodium intake which can cause numerous heart problems. While processed foods cannot be completely avoided, you need to be able to make smart decisions and identify the healthier processed foods. You can do this in the following ways:
- Read the nutrition labels: The best way to learn more about the foods you are consuming is to read the food labels. This gives you information on the level of sodium and added sugars in the food. You can use this as a guide to control the level of sodium you consume.
- Opt for more frozen foods: Very often, frozen foods can be just as nutritious as fresh foods. You can compare nutrition labels to find foods that are low in salt and sugar syrups.
- Cook your food at home: The most fool proof way to avoid processed food and other harmful ingredients is to cook your own food. You can look for recipes online and get your cook on! Preparing food at home gives you control over what goes into your food. Not only is it healthier to prepare food at home, but it also helps you save money and spend time with the ones you love.
Control your food portions
While what you eat is important to prevent heart disease, it is also important to control how much you eat. Overcrowding your plate or taking second helpings leads to consuming a lot more calories than you should. One way to avoid this is to use a small plate to control your food intake. You can also use spoons and measuring cups to portion your meals. Aim to eat larger portions of high nutrient and lean protein foods such as vegetables and fish, and smaller portions of high sodium and processed foods. Controlling your food portions can help you maintain your weight and avoid health problems such as cholesterol and high blood pressure which eventually lead to heart disease.
Almost every health problem that exists is due to bad eating habits. Not feeding your system with the right vitamins and nutrients can be catastrophic for your health in the long-term and lead to a litany of diseases and illnesses. Be cautious of your health and make sure to get an annual master health check-up to identify potential issues before they get more serious. Let food be the only medicine you need!