Expert Health Articles

Give Your Heart Some Love

Martha GonzalesMartha Gonzales

Blanchard Valley Health System, Clinical Nutrition Manager

We brush our teeth to maintain our dental health. We take showers as a practice of good hygiene. When was the last time you did something for your heart? With busy schedules, it’s easy to get caught up in unhealthy eating habits; however, this can lead to bad news for your heart. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. By simply following a heart-healthy diet, you may be able to reduce your risk for heart disease or prevent current heart disease from worsening.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Limit saturated and trans fats. This can be done by cutting back on processed meats such as hot dogs, salami, and bacon. Instead, opt for fish, chicken, turkey and plant-based protein sources, such as soybeans, pinto beans, lentils and nuts. When shopping for beef or pork, choose cuts with “loin” or “round” in their name. Cooking methods should also be considered when trying to limit saturated fat; bake, broil, roast, stew or stir-fry lean meats, fish or poultry.
  • Eat foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. Consider using oils that provide omega-3 fatty acids, such as canola, flaxseed or soybean oil. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as polyunsaturated fat — the kind that's been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lowers the production of LDL cholesterol in the body. Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, sardines and lake trout are more great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat two 4-ounce portions of fatty fish each week.
  • Reduce salt (sodium) intake. Instead of dining out, prepare more meals at home so you’re in control of the amount of salt added to your food. To season your food, try using herbs, spices, garlic, onions, peppers, and lemon or lime juice. When using canned soups and vegetables, choose varieties that say “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added.” When in doubt, check the nutrition facts panel for sodium and choose products with lower sodium content.

If you’re still not sure where to start, consider creating a daily meal plan that is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, while limiting saturated fats. By following a few of these tips, you’ll be on your way to living a heart-healthy lifestyle. So do yourself a favor and give your heart the tender loving care it needs.

Sample 1 Day Heart-Healthy Meal Plan

Breakfast

1 c oatmeal w/ cinnamon, 2 tbsp chopped walnuts

1 c skim milk

Lunch

2 cups spinach or salad greens w/ baked chicken

2 tablespoons low fat salad dressing

1 cup blueberries

6 whole-grain crackers

Dinner

1 baked salmon filet

1 cup carrots w/ Greek yogurt dip

1 cup whole grain rice seasoned w/ garlic and olive oil

1 cup skim milk

Snack

1 apple

2 tbsp peanut butter