Eating For Your Heart

Following a healthy diet is one of the easiest ways to take care of your heart and reduce your risk of heart attack.  Here are 7 simple tips that will help keep your heart, and the rest of you, healthy.

  1. Practice portion control. Did you know that the amount we eat is just as important as what we eat?  Overeating stresses our bodies with excess calories, fat, and cholesterol.  Pay attention to portion size.  A portion of pasta is ½ cup – about the size of a hockey puck.  A serving of meat is 2 or 3 ounces – roughly the size of a deck of cards.  It may take time to become accustomed to smaller portions.  In the meantime, use measuring cups or a food scale to keep you on track.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that a heavily plant-based diet can help prevent cardiovascular disease.  In addition, fruits and vegetables are low-calorie, nutrient-rich, and high in fiber.  Adding more fresh (or frozen) produce to your diet may also help you eat less high-fat or processed foods that are bad for your health.
  3. Choose whole grains. Whole grains are rich in fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and maintain heart health.  Simply replace foods containing refined grains with whole grains.  For example, choose 100% whole grain bread, brown rice, quinoa or barley in place of white rice, semolina pasta, or couscous.  For an added dose, try sprinkling ground flaxseed on your yogurt, fruit, or breakfast cereal.  It’s high in fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. Limit unhealthy fats. The best way to avoid unhealthy fats is to limit the amount of solid fats – butter, margarine, and shortening – you eat.  Read food labels and avoid processed foods that contain trans fats.  Instead, choose heart-healthy monounsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil.  Polyunsaturated fat, found in nuts and seeds, is also good for your heart and can help lower your total blood cholesterol.
  5. Go for low-fat protein. Poultry, fish, beans, low-fat dairy products, and egg whites are excellent sources of protein that don’t come with an unwanted dose of saturated fat.  Cold-water fish such as salmon and herring are especially good choices, as they contain omega-3 fatty acids.  Substituting plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils for meat will help reduce your fat and cholesterol intake.
  6. Eat less salt. Excess sodium in our diet can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.  In addition to reducing the amount of salt you cook with, it is also important to monitor the salt you may be getting from canned or processed foods.
  7.  Plan ahead. Planning healthy meals in advance will help you stick to your plan and avoid the temptation to grab the quickest – not necessarily healthiest – foods.
Jay Reich
Jay Reich
Jay is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and also has an MBA from San Francisco State University. He has worked for a number of insurance carriers and brokers over the past 25 years. At UBF, Jay specializes in advocating for our clients in various issues, including grievances, benefit inquiries and eligibility issues.
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