When it comes to nutrition and your heart – what to eat, what not to eat and how much to eat – you may be confused and overwhelmed. You may be reading all the right information, but how does that information translate into dinner?
The facts: Saturated Fat
Not all fat is created equal. Different types of fats have different effects on your body and cholesterol. Saturated fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and are found in animal products, such as full-fat dairy and high-fat meats.
The foods: When choosing your protein, look for lean meats and trim visible fat. All protein can be part of a heart healthy diet as long as you stick to a three ounce serving size (about the size of your palm).
The facts: Unsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help lower your blood cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated and trans fats. Consume most of your fat from fish, oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter, seeds and olives.
The foods: Look for heart healthy unsaturated fats in flax and in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines. Add ground flaxseeds to your favorite treats to lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of heart attack.
The facts: Fiber
Fiber promotes weight loss by keeping you full longer, which in turn can help lower your cholesterol. Soluble fiber (found in fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and peas) helps remove cholesterol from your body.
The foods: Aside from choosing more fresh fruits and vegetables, take a look at some of your favorite pantry staples. Cereal can be a great source of soluble fiber, if you choose correctly. Select varieties made with whole grains and at least five grams of fiber per serving.
The facts: Sodium
Did you know that sodium and salt are different? Sodium is an element needed for fluid balance in your body. Salt (like what’s on your table) is made of sodium and chloride. A high sodium intake from table salt, processed foods or packaged foods can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
The foods: Shake the salt habit by removing it from your kitchen (your taste buds will adjust in about two weeks) and swapping lower sodium goodies in lieu of your favorite salty snacks. Choose “no salt added” canned and frozen veggies over their sodium-laden counterparts.
Putting it all together
Good nutrition is the heart of heart health. Emphasize a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods every day. If you feel overwhelmed by all of the heart smart changes, remember that even small changes can improve the health of your ticker.