What we put in our mouths has a major impact on heart and blood vessel health. Fortunately a heart healthy diet is packed with delicious foods which provide healthy benefits for the entire body.
Here are 10 tips:
1. Foods which contain fiber help to prevent the buildup of blood vessel clogging cholesterol. Fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains are fiber rich fat free foods. Nuts provide fiber and healthy fats.
2. Eat generous amounts of culinary mushrooms. They contain vitamins and compounds which reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation is important as inflammation has been linked to heart disease; hardening of the arteries; strokes and a vast array of other disorders which impair the health of the entire body.
3. Eat most of your fruits and vegetables raw. Raw fruits and veggies contain higher levels of vitamins and enzymes than cooked ones. Organic, local produce is best. Wash produce carefully to decrease bacteria and other contaminants. Dark colored fruits and vegetables in a wide range of colors offer the broadest range of heart healthy antioxidants and phytochemicals which prevent illness.
4. Tomatoes are especially beneficial for heart health. They contain lycopene which has been shown to protect the heart from disease. Cooked tomatoes contain higher amounts of lycopene than raw ones. Another excellent source of lycopene is watermelon.
5. Eat plenty of onions and garlic. They offer many protective benefits for the heart and blood vessels. Benefits include reducing blood pressure and lowering, LDL, bad cholesterol levels.
6. Obtain concentrated amounts of antioxidants from unsweetened Concord grape juice or limited amounts of red wine. When I first became a nurse, we used to have bottles of wine right in the medication room. Doctors prescribed it widely for their cardiac patients.
7. Add liberal amounts of herbs and spices for flavor and health benefits. Herbs and spices contain concentrated amounts of antioxidants. By using herbs and spices, you may be able to reduce your intake of salt, which is not healthy when consumed in excessive amounts. Salt makes the body retain excess water, causing swelling and increasing the workload of the heart. If you do want to use small amounts of salt, consider using sea salt or even powdered kelp or other types of seaweed sprinkles. Seaweeds contain trace minerals and a healthier from of salt than regular table salt.
8. Rather than eat a great deal of meat; consume most of your protein from plants. Soybeans, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk are healthy options. If you like to eat meat, wild meats are the leanest. If that is not an option; grass fed, free-range meat is the second healthiest.
9. Consume deep cold water fish regularly. They are rich in protein and heart healthy oils. Healthy fish include halibut, salmon, albacore, mackerel and herring. Farm-raised fish does not offer the same healthy benefits as wild caught ocean fish.
10. Olive, flax, hempseed and walnut oil oils are healthy fats. Avocado and macadamia nut oils are very healthy too. Like deep cold water fish, these oils contain essential fatty acids which our bodies need, but cannot produce. Oils which contain essential fatty acids help to increase levels of “good” cholesterol while lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol. They reduce inflammation; thereby preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Foods And Practices To Avoid
Do not overheat or reuse cooking oils. Even healthy oils may be changed into unhealthy oils if they are overheated or reused. Look carefully at labels on oils. Use organic ones when possible. Some companies provide information on labels which indicate maximum recommended temperatures for cooking with the oils. Most fats which are solid at room temperature are less healthy than those which are liquid at room temperature. Coconut oil is an exception. It is solid at room temperature yet is a healthy fat. Polyunsaturated fats include some brands of margarine.
Avoid processed foods, as they contain less healthy fats and can increase inflammation.
Also, avoid most margarines and animal fats. There are some healthy margarine brands available. Read product labels if you choose to eat margarine. Remember: Eating small amounts of the right kinds of fats is important for the health of the blood vessels and heart. Fats contain more calories than equal amounts of proteins or carbohydrates. Plant-based fats do not contain cholesterol.
Don’t know where to start in changing your diet? Here is a recipe for a tasty, crunchy salad that is laden with heart healthy vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. The oils used are among the healthiest oils which you can eat. Enjoy!
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- ½ inch piece of fresh peeled ginger, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons Macadamia Nut oil
- Salad Ingredients:
- 4 cups clopped cabbage
- 2 large apples cut in 1/2 inch pieces
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup fresh pineapple chunks
- ¼ cups chopped macadamia nuts
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped Brazil nuts
Directions: Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
Combine salad ingredients and toss with lettuce. Stir the vinaigrette dressing and pour it over the salad immediately before serving. Serves 4-6