An estimated 78 million Americans have high blood pressure, and over 15 million have coronary heart disease. One of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is through proper nutrition, and the following tips provide some helpful guidelines for a heart-healthy diet.
Follow a low-sodium diet
Eating less sodium can help lower your blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. However, you don’t want to lower to the amount of sodium in your diet too much since it’s an essential nutrient. For most people, consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium per day can help with heart health.
In addition to taking the saltshaker off the table, avoid heavily processed foods with lots of added salt (ex: potato chips and canned soup).
Eat more fiber
Soluble (digestible) fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also help stave off weight gain, a leading cause of heart disease because fiber-rich foods give you a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
To get more fiber in your diet, replace simple carbs like white bread with complex carbs like:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat pasta
The average American only eats 15g of fiber each day, even though it’s recommended that women consume 25g and men consume 38g daily.
Avoid processed meats
Most meats that are processed, smoked, cured, or canned are high in salt. In fact, they contain 4x as much salt as unprocessed meats on average. According to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, eating one serving of processed meat daily can increase the risk of heart disease by 42%.
Simply put, when we eat more calories than we need we gain weight. Being overweight is a significant risk factor for heart disease. In addition, excess stomach fat, known as visceral fat, is linked to high blood pressure.
Everyone’s calorie requirements are different due to activity level, metabolism, and body size, so talk to your doctor about roughly how many you should be eating each day. There’s no need to be militant about counting calories, but you should have a general idea of what your body needs.
Eat less unhealthy fats
Saturated and trans fats commonly found in meat, milk, cheese, and butter have been linked to heart disease. They are also in foods like palm and coconut oil, although coconut oil is abundant is lauric acid, which has been shown to have a limited effect on heart disease risk.
On the other hand, poly- and monounsaturated fats are actually good for your heart! Some examples of healthy fats can be found HERE.
This may seem obvious, but it’s one of the easiest things to overlook. When reading labels at the store, look for words like:
- Low cholesterol
- Low sodium
- Low saturated fat
- Lightly salted
- Added fiber