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Food Options for a Healthy Heart by Priyanka ,  May 19, 2013
Healthy eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, stabilizing your mood, and keeping yourself as healthy as possible– all of which can be achieved by learning some nutrition basics and using them in a way that works for you. You can expand your range of healthy food choices and learn how to plan ahead to create and maintain a tasty, healthy diet.

Control your portion size

How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs. Keep track of the number of servings you eat — and use proper serving sizes — to help control your portions. Eating more of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and less of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods, can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.

A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. For example, one serving of pasta is 1/2 cup, or about the size of a hockey puck. A serving of meat, fish or chicken is 2 to 3 ounces, or about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. Judging serving size is a learned skill. You may need to use measuring cups and spoons or a scale until you're comfortable with your judgment.

Eat more vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Vegetables and fruits contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.

Featuring vegetables and fruits in your diet can be easy. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Keep fruit in a bowl in your kitchen so that you'll remember to eat it. Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as the main ingredient, such as vegetable stir-fry or fresh fruit mixed into salads.

Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce cholesterol levels.

Try to replace foods containing saturated fats with foods that are high in unsaturated fats, such as:

  • oily fish (e.g. mackerel and salmon)
  • nuts (e.g. almonds and cashews)
  • seeds (e.g. sunflower and pumpkin)
  • vegetable oils and spreads (e.g. sunflower, olive, corn, walnut and rapeseed oils)

Green leafy vegetables: Green leafy vegetable like spinach, fenugreek, pak choy, radish leaves, lettuce, etc. are healthy and are known to reduce the risk of heart diseases and cancer as well. That's because they are extremely low in fat, calories and high in dietary fibre. They also contain folic acid, magnesium, calcium, potassium, etc. These minerals are beneficial for the optimum functioning of the heart. Studies have shown that one daily serving of green leafy vegetables can lower the risk of heart diseases by 11 per cent.

Oats: Oats are one the most healthiest options available for breakfast. Not only do they make you feel full and energetic, they are great for your heart too. Oats contain beta glucan, which is a soluble fibre that helps bring down cholesterol levels especially LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body. Have oatmeal for breakfast or have oatmeal bread or cookies to absorb their benefits.

Whole grains: Whole grains whether its wheat, barley, millet, pulses and even beans for that matter are good for the heart because they provide natural fibre and vitamins. They contains vitamin E, iron, magnesium and a host of anti-oxidants. Regular consumption of of whole grains reduces blood pressure too.

Soy protein: Soy is essentially soyabean curd. They are also available in the form of soya chunks and soya mince easily in the market today. Soy is an excellent healthy substitute for red meats which are high in fat, increase the bad cholesterol and saturated fats which are very bad for the heart.

Olive oil: Olive oil is one of the most healthiest oils available, whose consumption is actually good for the heart. Having olive oil as a regular part of your diet, helps ion lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body. Also, olive oil contains monounsaturated fats that are good for the heart and are packed with anti-oxidants. Extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols and gives even greater health benefits. Drizzle some olive oil in your salad as a dressing instead of that unhealthy mayonnaise and high-calories dressings, or better still substitute it for your normal cooking oil and see the difference.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes is a good source of vitamins and acts as a blood purifier. Regular consumption of tomatoes is known to reduce the risk of heart diseases. Vitamin K present in tomatoes helps to prevent occurrences of hemorrhages. Eat tomatoes in the raw form in salads or sandwiches, cooked form in gravies or simply good old ketchup.

Apples: An apple a day, will surely keep the doctor away because they contain guercetin, a photochemical containing ant-inflammatory properties. It also helps in prevention of blood clots. Eat apples for breakfast with your cereal or eat them as a snack when you're hungry instead to pigging out on deep-fried chips.

Nuts

Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids and, along with almonds and macadamia nuts, are loaded with mono- and polyunsaturated fat. Plus, nuts increase fiber in the diet, says Dr. Sinatra. "And like olive oil, they are a great source of healthy fat."

Wine/Alcohol

Scientific literature indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Drinking in moderation may protect the heart by raising “good” HDL cholesterol, decreasing inflammation and “thinning the blood” (preventing clots that can cause heart attack and stroke). Moderate drinking also increases estrogen, which protects the heart—a benefit particularly helpful to postmenopausal women whose reduced estrogen levels increase their risk of heart disease. Remember, 1 drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, making them heart healthy. You can use some of the following strategies to make eating fruits and veggies part of your diet every day.

  • Keep fruit and vegetables at your fingertips. Wash and cut fruit and veggies and put them in your refrigerator for quick and healthy snacks. Choose recipes that feature these high-fiber ingredients, like veggie stir-fries or fruit salad.
  • Incorporate veggies into your cooking. Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
  • Don’t leave out the legumes. Legumes are fiber-rich, too. Eatmore beans, peas, and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad.
  • Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain crackers are all good ways to add fiber at snack time. An occasional handful of nuts is also a healthy, high-fiber snack.
Oranges

Oranges contain a pharmacy's worth of salves for the heart. The soluble fiber pectin acts like a giant sponge, sopping up cholesterol in food and blocking its absorption--just like a class of drugs known as bile acid sequestrants. And the potassium in oranges helps counterbalance salt, keeping blood pressure under control.

Pomegranates

Bringing down LDL is important, but so is preventing the oxidation of that cholesterol. When LDL is oxidized, it tends to get stuck in arterial walls, initiating the formation of plaque. But Michael Aviram, professor of biochemistry at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, found that pomegranate juice, with its unique antioxidants, not only blocked the progression of plaque, but actually reversed some of the buildup when patients drank 8 ounces a day for a year.

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