6 Rules To Create A Heart-Healthy Diet
Of late, we’ve been engulfed with Covid19 statistics, that we’ve forgotten to notice another statistic that’s ringing the alarm bells. According to the WHO, an estimated 17.9 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2019. This number represents 32% of all the global deaths that happened that year. Of the 17.9 million people, 85% died due to stroke and heart diseases.
These numbers point to the grim fact that heart disease is becoming the biggest cause of death worldwide. Health experts are blaming two factors- an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
There is a big connection between your heart and food. You may want to eat what your heart desires. But have you ever paused to consider if that food is ideal for your heart? All the risk factors associated with heart diseases are affected by an unhealthy diet.
Calorie-rich, fatty, salty foods play havoc with your blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation. And if that’s not enough, excessive sugar and processed meats also play a role in making you prone to heart diseases.
So, with everyone pointing fingers at unhealthy food intake, the spotlight is on the new term, “heart-healthy diet.”
What Exactly Is A "Heart-Healthy Diet" & Does It Really Exist?
A low-cholesterol and low-fat diet were once believed to be the ideal diet for the heart. However, that concept fell apart when health experts discovered that the real enemy for the heart wasn’t the foods with cholesterol. The biggest culprit happens to be processed and packed foods falsely disguised with the label “low-fat.”
What about the Mediterranean diet, Keto diet, Paleo diet, and the hundreds of other fancy diets out there? Are they heart-healthy? Unfortunately, the proof remains to be seen.
However, heart-healthy food can be best defined as a measured intake of nutritious ingredients from various food groups like veggies, fruits, grains, lean meat, and poultry. It also includes foods free of sugar, salt, saturated fats, and trans fats.
A little technological help can help you ensure you have a heart-healthy diet. The
REAN HealthGuru app comes with amazing features for nutrition management. Our healthcare app is a great companion to help you assess your diet and control what you eat.
However, to optimize the use of our app, you need to understand the pattern of a heart-healthy diet. Ideally, a heart-healthy diet has six rigid rules that are vital to cardiac health. We are explaining them in detail to help you achieve a healthy heart.
6 Hard & Fast Rules To Eat Your Way To A Healthy Heart
1. Your heart loves veggies & fruits
There is no healthy diet without vegetables and fruits, and therefore, it’s no surprise that they top the list of heart-healthy foods. Like other plants and plant-based foods, veggies and fruits are loaded with fiber and other substances that help prevent cardio vascular diseases.
A diet rich in veggies keeps you full, helps you deal with hunger pangs, and curbs your snacking habits. Fruits, on the other hand, satisfy your sugar cravings and nourish your body with vital micro and macro nutrients. However, even if they are healthy, you need to exercise restraint and eat mindfully. Here are some tips:
- Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Opt for low-sodium canned veggies and canned fruits packed in water or their natural juices.
- Avoid all “fruit juices” that come in tetra packs and bottles.
- Avoid frozen fruits with added sugar.
- Go for whole fruits rather than fruit juices. They give you plenty of fiber content.
- Limit your intake of coconut, creamy sauces, and deep-fried vegetables.
2. Stay away from salt
Salt is an essential ingredient that brings out the flavor in food. However, too much of it is never good for your body. A High sodium content in your bloodstream causes water retention and spikes your blood pressure. Consistent high BP puts unwanted strain on your heart and also contributes to blocked arteries. Furthermore, a salt-laden diet leads to weight gain, bloating, and puffiness.
Tips to rein in your salt intake:
- Strictly avoid all salty foods like pickles, cheeses, and processed foods.
- Be mindful of the salt you add to your dishes.
- Avoid taking extra salt while eating.
- Avoid salty snacks like popcorn and nachos.
3. Say yes to unsaturated fats
Not all fats are villains. Studies have revealed that unsaturated fats, high-density lipoproteins (HDL cholesterol), are a great ally for the heart. It helps clear the saturated fat or LDL cholesterol from the blood and transport it to the liver to further break it down.
The presence of HDL cholesterol in your blood plays a vital role in transporting vitamins, enabling muscle movement, building cell membranes, and blood clotting. Want to ensure optimum HDL levels in your bloodstream? Here’s what your diet should include:
- Avocados, walnuts, fresh olives, safflower oil, olive oil
- High-fiber fruits like apples, pears, and prunes
- Brown rice, wild rice, beans, and legumes
- Nuts and flax seeds
- Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and trout
4. Say no to processed foods
The Nutrient-Sante study warns that the increased intake of ultra-processes foods will leave more people vulnerable to heart diseases and early death. As the name suggests, “processed foods” are not naturally derived foods that come straight from your nearby farm. These foods are manufactured with an unhealthy dose of high fructose corn syrup, refined flour, salt, and other additives, preservatives, and chemicals.
Ultra-processed foods are rich in everything bad for your heart- salt, sugar, oil, fat, and calories. Supermarket shelves are stocked with attractive-looking ultra-processed foods with fancy names. Our advice: Completely avoid them and re-balance your diet with:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean meats
5. Bring your LDL levels down
A 2020 Update from the American Heart Association reveals that in 2017, high LDL cholesterol was the 5th leading risk factor that accounted for 4.3 million deaths. Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is one of the biggest enemies that impact your cardiac health. It causes fatty deposits in your blood vessels and blocks the major arteries that lead to your heart.
Your heart-healthy diet should be free of foods contributing to high LDL cholesterol. Here’s how you can ensure the same:
- Include more nuts which are a good source of unsaturated fats
- Increase your green tea consumption.
- Increased intake of soy protein lowers LDL levels by 3-4% in adults.
- Include foods like barley and oats that are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble dietary fiber.
- Limit fatty meat, butter, cream, deep-fried foods, and full-fat dairy products.
6. Create heart-friendly menus
Our above-mentioned five points would’ve given you a comprehensive idea of foods that should and shouldn’t be a part of your heart-healthy diet. Using these strategies, you can create a heart-friendly menu that works for your lifestyle.
Some quick and effective tips for your menu plan:
- Keep a close eye on salty foods and oil intake.
- Emphasize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Include green leafy veggies and fruits loaded with fiber
- Watch your portion sizes
- Use a calorie counter to limit your calorie intake
- Allow yourself a tiny indulgence once a month, like a small bar of chocolate or slice of cake.
A heart-healthy diet requires conscious effort, some sacrifices, and diligent practice. However, it becomes an effortless, easy way to protect your heart when you make it a habit.
Do Your Part- Care For Your Heart
A heart-healthy diet is a rock-solid foundation for fighting heart diseases. If the diet is one part of the equation, exercise is the other half that contributes to your heart’s health. Quit smoking, limit your alcohol intake and find ways to deal with stress.
With the REAN HealthGuru healthcare app, you can manage your nutrition intake, monitor your fitness goals, keep track of your vitals, and manage stress to ensure good health from the inside out. To know more about our health care platform, visit us at https://www.reanfoundation.org/.