Foods to Embrace or Avoid for a Healthy Heart
The heart can be compared to an engine in a car which, when running at peak performance, will give you a long and happy ride. However, if the engine is neglected or abused, it will begin to give you problems and then eventually break down if proper maintenance isn’t provided. Also, good, clean fuel is needed to give the engine life. If you put watered down or contaminated fuel in your car, it will soon begin to spit and sputter.
The heart is responsible for circulating the blood through the body which, in turn, supplies the necessary nutrients and removes the harmful waste and toxins. A heart-healthy diet is essential to keep the heart running smoothly and to keep the body fine-tuned for peak performance.
Just as with a car, regular maintenance is much easier and cheaper than waiting for a major problem to occur and then trying to fix it. Creating a positive diet plan for a healthy heart is fairly easy to achieve and will help to prevent some major breakdowns such as a heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or numerous other chronic diseases which plague Americans by the millions every year.
Foods that Maintain a Healthy Heart
In order to keep the heart pumping happily, the main goal is to avoid processed foods and add more natural products that are rich in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients which the body requires for healthy living.
The following foods should be added to a regular nutritious diet to keep your heart healthy and disease-free:
Fruits and Vegetables – You are greatly benefited by adding more fruits and vegetables to your heart-healthy diet. These luscious products of Mother Nature are packed full of healthy nutrients and fiber. Consuming organic produce from a local farmer’s market is the best choice, but if you have to buy supermarket produce, choose frozen products and thoroughly wash fresh produce before eating. Some good fruits and vegetables for a healthy heart include:
Protein – Protein-rich foods are also essential for your heart to function properly. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to lower chronic heart disease risks, but are consumed in minute amounts by most Americans. Therefore, substitute tuna, salmon and mackerel which are rich in omega-3, for more damaging meats (see below). You should also add more of the following foods which are rich in protein to your nutritious heart diet:
• Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
• Skim milk
• Egg whites
• Soy products (soy burgers also make a good substitution for fatty meats)
Grains – Whole grains also contain large amounts of nutrients and fiber which work well to lower blood pressure. For a healthy heart diet, include whole wheat breads, cereals and flour, brown rice and flaxseeds which provide another source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Red Wine – Consuming one glass of red wine per day has been shown in studies to raise levels of HDL cholesterol which is the type that is good for the heart.
Foods that Can Damage a Healthy Heart
Many foods which are consumed today are detrimental to a healthy heart and should be eliminated from your diet, or substantially reduced. Processed foods are very unhealthy as they contain sugar, salt, saturated fat and chemicals which all work to damage the heart and other body organs.
Some of the most damaging heart foods which should be avoided are:
Sugar – Consuming too many foods containing sugars can lead to high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels. Foods with natural sugars should be reduced and those containing high fructose corn syrup should be avoided altogether. Avoid or seriously reduce intake of:
• Sugar – do not exceed more than 90 grams of sugar per day
• Sweetened cereals
• Ice Cream
Sodium – High blood pressure has been proven to result from consuming foods high in sodium. Those over 50 are at an even greater risk. You should avoid the following high sodium foods:
• Potato chips and other packaged snacks containing salt
• Canned soups with the exception of those labeled “reduced sodium”
• Soy sauce
• Tomato juice
Saturated Fats – Avoid those foods which are extremely high in saturated fats. These include bacon, gravy, butter and shortening. Red meats such as beef, lamb and pork are high in saturated fats and should be reduced to eating only a few times per month. Your daily consumption of calories from fats should not exceed 30%.
If you require assistance with creating a healthy heart diet, or have special dietary needs which need to be addressed in such a diet then see a certified nutritionist or your doctor.
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