You’ve likely heard the saying “food is the best medicine.” The reason for its popularity is directly related to science. Food does much more than simply provide energy. It has been shown to have a direct correlation with a person’s risk factors for certain conditions and diseases. What is great about the power of a nutrient-dense diet of whole foods is it gives a person control in mitigating their risks for things like coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, certain cancers, and obesity.
START WITH A SOLID FOUNDATION
While there are good and bad foods that promote or impede good cardiovascular health, respectively, there are 2 basic components that should lay the foundation for your dietary and exercise habits.
1. Portion control
With just under 37% of Americans being obese in 2021, the topic of portion control is
Measuring and weighing out meals and snacks every day is not realistic or feasible for many people. Many dietitians and nutrition experts agree that you can put away the scales and measuring tools. There are easier ways to manage portion control with just a few simple visual associations. For example, the portion size of a lean protein should be equal to your palm, starches equal to a closed first, fats equal to the top portion of your thumb, cheese equal to your entire thumb, fruit equal to one cupped hand, and vegetables equal to two cupped hands. Another popular option for tightening up your portion control is using a salad plate, as opposed to a dinner plate.
2. Increase physical activity
Cardiologists agree that 150 minutes per week of moderate activity is essential for optimal heart health because aerobic activity improves the muscles' ability to pull oxygen out of the blood. Cardiovascular exercise also reduces cortisol, the stress hormone that is responsible for belly fat and can put an extra burden on the heart. Regular physical activity slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. The best heart healthy workouts are ideally a combination of aerobic activity (brisk walking, running, swimming) and strength training (weight lifting, resistance training).
EAT THIS NOT THAT
Changing your diet for better health and longevity can be challenging especially if you don’t know how to choose the right foods. In this section we will outline what are the healthy foods for the heart and what to avoid.
Some of the biggest calorie bombs, and heart health offenders that Americans consume regularly include alcohol, solid and trans fat (butter, margarine), sugary drinks (sodas), fried foods (fast food), refined grains (white bread, rice, pastas), and added salt. Not only are these foods calorie-dense, but they also raise blood pressure and put you at increased risk of heart and kidney disease.
If you are interested in switching to a diet for a healthy heart, there are a few things to keep in mind when you are doing your grocery shopping. Try replacing the trans fats with healthy oils like olive or avocado oil. They will lower your calorie count and provide a tasty alternative to the artery clogging properties of butter.
Fast food, where the majority of the menu options are fried, is literally a killer when it comes to heart health. Fried foods are high in saturated fat and trans fat, so consuming them leads to plaque buildup in arteries and that puts you at increased risk for coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
When it comes to sugary drink consumption, your best bet is to switch to water. Your body needs water to function properly and research studies have shown that nearly half of Americans don’t get enough. If you need some flavor, try infusing your water with fruit.
When grains undergo the refinement process, they lose nutrients and are broken down into simple sugars when consumed, which leads to temporary spikes in blood sugar levels. If you want to decrease your risk for heart disease, you need foods that are good for the heart. Try replacing refined grains with whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice or whole wheat breads and pastas.
When making heart healthy choices, it’s important to keep in mind “lean and green”. When choosing proteins, avoid fatty cuts of meat like bacon and sausage and opt for lean cuts of chicken, turkey, and fish. Regardless of the diet plan you may choose to follow, leafy greens and veggies will always have their rightful place. Not only are they low in calories, but they are nutrient-dense, and a great source of vitamin C and vitamin A. These vitamins are antioxidants and reduce the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries.
Other healthy choices when making your plate include nonfat or low-fat dairy foods (yogurt and cheese), eggs, beans (chickpeas, lentils, peas, and soybeans), and nuts (walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans).
BASS Medical Group
At BASS Medical Group we are dedicated to helping you make heart healthy choices so you can enjoy optimal health and wellness. Our team of cardiologists and expert nutritionists are here to help you take control of your health. To learn more, visit us at https://www.bassmedicalgroup.com/