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Healthy You

Heart-healthy food that belongs in your meal rotation

Tuesday, August 08, 2023 10:15 AM

By NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health

superfoodsHow often do you end a busy day with fast food or a frozen, processed dinner?

It happens. Convenience food is quick, easy and usually tastes good. Unfortunately, it can wreak havoc on your health.

Eating an unhealthy diet can increase your risk of heart disease, the number one killer of adults in the U.S. The good news is that making dietary changes can help reduce your risk.

“Heart disease is not inevitable, and your diet plays a significant role in preventing heart problems down the road,” said Rupa Patil, MD,cardiologist with NorthShore University HealthSystem. “The hardest part of adopting a heart-healthy diet is simply breaking away from old, unhealthy habits.”

Healthy food can be delicious. It can also be quick and easy if you plan ahead. Your heart health is important, and eating healthy can help you avoid medical problems as you age.

Try building your heart-healthy eating plan around these tips:

  • Load up on vegetables and fruit. Make sure every meal includes veggies and some fruit. Go for the rainbow and pick up colorful fruits and veggies like dark leafy greens, purple cabbage or red raspberries. Frozen is just as good as fresh. Just avoid vegetables that are coated in heavy, creamy sauce or fried. Choose fresh fruit or fruit packed in water, not syrup or with sugar added.
  • Add low-fat protein. Lean meat, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and eggs are good sources of low-fat protein. So are beans, lentils, soy and peas.
  • Choose whole grains. Ditch the white bread and rice and opt for whole grain bread or brown rice. So many products are marketed as “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100 percent wheat” or “bran.” But those foods don’t necessarily contain whole grains that are so important for good health. Look at the product’s ingredient list; the first ingredient should have the word “whole,” “oats” or “oatmeal” in it. Other whole grains include barley, spelt, whole wheat couscous, polenta and farro.
  • Include some healthy fat. Not all fat is bad for you. Olive oil, avocados, nuts, chia or flax seeds and salmon are some options to get the healthy fats your body needs. Just keep an eye on portion size because, while it may be healthy, it can be high calorie.

There are also some foods that should be avoided:

  • Cut back or avoid saturated fat. Instead of drinking whole milk, switch to skim or low-fat. Trade full fat cheese for reduced-fat cheese. When shopping for meat, look for lean cuts and limit high-fat meats like bacon or sausage. Chicken, salmon or ground turkey are good alternatives to fatty meats.
  • Reduce sodium. To cut sodium, try using fresh herbs, sodium-free or low-sodium seasonings and citrus to add flavor to your food instead of salt. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day if you’re trying to reduce blood pressure, and notes that lowering sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day lowers blood pressure even further.

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