Healthy Eating for a Strong Heart Beating

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NUTRITION

By Grace Iberle, RDN, LDN, CHC, CPT 

What you choose to put on your plate plays a big role in your heart health to help fight cardiovascular disease and decrease your risk.

The American Heart Association recommends following a healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains

  • Low-fat dairy products

  • Skinless poultry and fish

  • Nuts and legumes

  • Non-tropical vegetable oils

Loading up on nutrient-rich foods, allows for less room for the not-so-heart-healthy foods. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Let’s dive a little deeper… what can we find in these heart healthy foods!

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids helps to decrease your triglyceride levels. Choose salmon, tuna, herring, and trout.

Nuts and seeds are a great source of unsaturated fats, which can help to lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol

Fiber not only supports our gut health, but is important to our heart health by assisting in controlling hypertension, balancing cholesterol levels, and aid in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Soluble fiber binds to your bad cholesterol, be sure to fill up on oatmeal, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.

Potassium is found naturally in fruits and vegetables and has been effective in lowering blood pressure.

Antioxidant compounds, such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavonoids, may influence the risk of CVD by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol in arteries. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says it best, “Because fruit, berries, and vegetables are chemically complex foods, it is difficult to pinpoint any single nutrient that contributes the most to the cardioprotective effects.” So what does that mean we should be focusing on eating more of? Fruits and vegetables!

Carotenoids give foods a rich red, yellow, and orange color - carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, acorn squash, pumpkin, oranges, cantaloupes, papaya.

Berries are loaded with heart-healthy phytonutrients, like polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, and soluble fiber.

Choosing low-fat dairy, will keep the saturated fat in check and the calcium is important for blood pressure regulation.

Flavonoids are the reason dark chocolate is beneficial for our hearts. It has antioxidant abilities to protect from environmental toxins and help to repair damage. Some other heart healthy benefits include lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. Be sure to choose dark chocolate with 70% cocoa or more. Other flavonoid-rich foods include apples, red wine, tea, onions, and cranberries.

Focusing on these nutrient rich foods will keep you heart healthy and happy! 


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