The heart can be compared to an engine in a car. When running at peak performance, an engine 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 and 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 that 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 that 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 apples, cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach, and carrots.
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 unfortunately consumed in minute amounts by most Americans. Therefore, you should have more tuna, salmon, and mackerel in your diet since these foods are rich in omega-3 with a great source of protein. You should also add other protein-rich foods in your diet like legumes, nuts, skim milk, eggs, and even soy products. Red meat has some of the highest amounts of protein but try to limit your red meat intake due to potential health risks.
Grains – Whole grains also contain large amounts of nutrients and fiber that 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 that 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 that 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). High sugared foods are foods like soda, candy, sweetened cereals, and ice cream.
Sodium – High blood pressure can be due to consuming foods high in sodium. Those over 50 years old are at an even greater risk. You should avoid high sodium foods like potato chips and other packaged snacks containing salt, canned soups with the exception of those labeled “reduced sodium”, soy sauce, and tomato juice.
Saturated Fats – Avoid those foods that 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%.
You should see a certified nutritionist if you require assistance with creating a healthy heart diet, or have special dietary needs that need to be addressed in such a diet.