Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to improve your heart health. The good news is that it’s easier than most people think. The key is focusing on making long-term lifestyle changes, rather than relying on quick fixes. Here are 10 tips to get started. View the slideshow to learn more.
Track what you eat
It’s helpful to track what you eat using either a food journal or an app, such as MyFitnessPal. In addition to calories, you’ll also be able to track other nutrients, such as protein, fat, fiber and sodium.
Eat more nutrient-rich foods
Not all foods are created equal. Some contain more vitamins and minerals without a lot of calories. To get more nutrients, focus on eating fruits and vegetables, lean meat, fish, whole grains, low-fat dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Choose fiber-rich foods
Adults need 25-30 grams of fiber per day. You can get this by eating fresh vegetables and fruit as well as whole grains, such as brown rice.
Eat a variety of fish
Salmon, sardines and mackerel are a few types of fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating at least two servings of fish per week can help lower your risk for heart disease.
Pick low-fat or fat-free dairy products
Every now and then, a study will suggest eating full-fat dairy is best. But when it comes to heart health, low-fat or fat-free dairy reigns supreme. That’s because it’s lower in saturated fat, which can lead to cholesterol build-up in your arteries.
Avoid sugary beverages
Eating – or drinking – too much sugar can up your risk for obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation. Water is your best option for staying hydrated. Aim to drink six to eight, eight-ounce servings of water every day.
Stick with healthy fats
Limit your intake of saturated (this includes coconut oil) and trans fats. Instead, opt for healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, chia seeds or flax seeds.
Instead of reaching for the salt shaker, season your food with fresh herbs, pepper or a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Mrs. Dash offers several sodium-free seasonings that can also be used for additional flavor.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Red wine is a heart-healthy option because it contains antioxidants. But limit yourself to 1-2 drinks per day. If you don’t normally drink, there are no health benefits to starting.
Watch portion sizes
Even if you’re eating healthy foods, portion size still matters. A good rule of thumb is to use a standard-size plate and fill half with vegetables, one quarter with lean protein and another quarter with whole grains.