Is your diet lending your heart a helping hand or kicking it to the curb?
When it comes to body parts your body can’t do without, the heart is king. But if you’re like many people, you may be treating your beloved heart like an ignored servant. How can you make sure your heart receives a kingly welcome? By eating right.
First, it’s a good idea to know what heart-healthy eating actually is. Contrary to popular belief, a diet that is heart healthy isn’t going to keep you from eating anything with flavor. You’re not going to be miserable while on a heart-healthy diet. Actually, you shouldn’t go on a heart-healthy diet – at least not one that lasts for a few months and fades away with your New Year’s resolutions.
Rather, you should maintain heart-healthy eating habits every day of the year.
The simplest recipe for heart-healthy eating habits is to go natural. Most foods you find in nature and eat in their raw or cooked forms are very good for you and many of them actively work to strengthen your heart. On the other hand, manmade foods that are highly processed or infused with ingredients that add flavor and fat often put your heart in harm’s way.
Fats and cholesterol can be very dangerous to your heart health. Hence why you should avoid them as much as possible. However, since it’s nearly impossible to rid your diet entirely of all types of fats and cholesterol, you’ll need to choose your battles wisely.
Battles worth fighting in the fat realm are those battles against saturated fat and trans fat. By carefully reading food labels and reducing the amount of butter and other fatty products you eat on a regular basis, you can sidestep the majority of these dangerous fats. Instead of saturated and trans fats, look for foods that contain monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats. Believe it or not, these fats may actually help lower your cholesterol.
Reading food labels will also help you manage the amount of cholesterol you consume. Ideally, a healthy adult will consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day. For even better health, try to get no more than 150 or 200 milligrams on a daily basis.
A third battle that is often overlooked is the ongoing battle against salt. Though it adds immediate flavor to anything you’re eating, salt also adds to your risk for high blood pressure. As high blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart disease, you ought to pay careful attention to how much salt you eat each day.
According to the American Heart Association, you should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt each day. One of the best ways to avoid going over the recommended limit is to resist the temptation to flavor your food with salt until you take a bite of the food. Some foods are naturally salty and have no need for you to add salt from the shaker. Taking a bite before adding salt may even help you enjoy the natural flavor of the food you’re eating. Over time, your saltshaker may be collecting dust in the pantry!
Living the Life
In addition to eating heart-healthy foods, your heart gains extra protection against disease through regular exercise. The minimum amount that you exercise for good health is 30 minutes five times a week. And while pumping iron helps strengthen your body over all, your heart thrives on aerobic exercises.
To keep your heart pumping strong, you should spend some time jogging around your neighborhood, swimming laps in the pool, or riding your bicycle through the woods. For added protection, don’t smoke, avoid breathing secondhand smoke, and stay in contact with your physician to ensure the steps you are taking for a heart-healthy life are working.