Heart disease has remained the number one killer of both men and women in the United States year after year. Statistics continue to prove that maintaining a healthy heart is important. While the steps that must be taken to achieve this goal can often seem overwhelming, there is something you can do today to make a long term impact on the health of your heart—choose to eat a heart healthy diet. Making a few simple modifications to your everyday diet can go a long way towards maintaining a healthy heart. From lowering cholesterol to managing your blood pressure, the food you eat each day can have a significant impact on your heart’s health. Give yourself a healthier heart by following the five simple steps below:
1. Cut salt intake. Decreasing your salt intake will help in controlling blood pressure and swelling. Instead of salt, try using fresh herbs and spices to flavor food. The fresh herbs will add tremendous amounts of flavor to your favorite dishes and will help disguise the lack of salt. If cutting out salt completely isn’t an option for you, try using Kosher salt instead. The larger crystals contain half of the sodium of regular table salt. Be careful though, a teaspoon of Kosher salt still accounts for almost your entire recommended daily amount of salt. Additionally, be aware of foods that sodium is often hidden in, such as: canned vegetables, frozen dinners, vegetable juices, cereals, canned soups and processed meats.
2. Be mindful of the portion size of your foods. Recommended serving sizes are often smaller than you may realize. For example, the recommended serving size for cheese is approximately one ounce, or a piece the size of a pair of dice. A serving of cooked meat should be no larger than a deck of cards or the palm of your hand and the recommended 1 cup of raw fruits or vegetables is a serving approximately the size of a baseball.
3. Make simple, healthier substitutions for the things you eat everyday. When cooking, substitute two egg whites for a whole egg to cut down on the cholesterol in the recipe. Consider replacing potato chips with apples or carrots when you are craving a crunchy snack. Also, try substituting your favorite frozen treats with frozen fruits such as grapes or bananas.
4. Eat more fish. Both salmon and tuna are rich in Omega-3’s which can lower the risk of heart rhythm disorders. Try replacing other meat options with fish twice a week. Other heart healthy fish options include mackerel and herring.
5. Use olive oil instead of saturated fats like butter. Extra virgin olive oil is a much healthier alternative to traditional oils and fats, and when used as a substitute it can help in lowering cholesterol. Olive oil can not only replace unhealthy saturated fats, but it also contains healthy monounsaturated fats, which are good for you. Olive oil can be used on salads, breads, and when cooking to make many of your meals healthier.