Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is responsible for nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide.
Luckily, you can prevent and combat the effects of heart disease in many ways, starting with balancing a healthy and nutrient-rich diet with an active lifestyle.
Saying you want to start eating healthier and doing it are two different things. One of the most difficult things with changing your diet is determining where to start. This guide covers the best types of food to eat for a heart-healthy diet and meal practices that aim to prevent heart disease.
Top 6 Best Foods to Prevent Heart Disease
When it comes to heart health, sometimes the smallest changes can make a big difference. For a more heart-healthy diet, consider adding more of these foods to your menu to support your heart health.
- Leafy greens: Spinach, collard greens, kale and other leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants and minerals that benefit heart health. Specifically, leafy greens are high in vitamin K, which can help to reduce blood pressure and improve the flow of blood through your arteries.
- Whole grains: Bread, cereal, pasta and flour made from whole grain can be a good source of fiber, which is an important factor in regulating blood pressure and your overall heart health. Consider substituting refined grain products such as white bread, white flour and egg noodles for heart-healthy whole grains that are better for your heart and taste just as good — if not better!
- Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are all rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect the body against stress and inflammation that contributes to heart disease. Consider adding berries to your low-calorie dessert, snack or breakfast to take advantage of their heart-healthy benefits.
- Avocados: Besides being incredibly delicious, avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats and potassium, which are linked to reduced cholesterol levels. This can lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
- Fatty fish: Many types of fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines. Fatty acids are known to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol, helping to reduce your risk for heart disease.
- Nuts: Walnuts, almonds and other nuts are great sources of fiber and micronutrients such as copper and magnesium. These micronutrients reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Additionally, nuts have been linked to reductions in belly fat due to their high quantity of monounsaturated fats.
Heart-Healthy Meal Practices
Now that you know what foods can promote good heart health, it is important to understand the best ways to eat them to ensure the most benefits possible. Here are some heart-healthy meal practices that can help you on your journey toward optimal heart health.
Control Portion Sizes
An important part of eating healthy is ensuring that you’re eating the right amount. Eating too much food — even heart-healthy foods — is a leading contributor to heart disease. Overloading your daily caloric intake can increase your chances of heart disease and other health risks associated with obesity.
The best way to decrease the amount of food you eat is by controlling the portion sizes of your meals. Using a smaller plate or bowl can help limit the amount of food presented to you.
Although you should limit the amount of junk food you eat for optimal heart health, controlling portion sizes doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t still eat your favorites in moderation. Instead, focus on eating more low-calorie and nutrient-rich foods while eating smaller amounts of high-calorie and high-sodium foods.
Finally, you’ll want to keep track of the number of servings you eat throughout the day to ensure that you aren’t eating too little or too much. Using tools such as measuring cups, spoons and scales can help you judge optimal serving sizes.
Plan Ahead With Daily Menus
One of the most common reasons people eat unhealthy foods is that these foods are often the most readily available and have the fastest prep time. A way to combat this is to plan your heart-healthy meals ahead of time.
Creating daily menus that include heart-healthy foods for each meal and snack can help you put your healthy meal plans into action. Map out the week’s menu ahead of time so you can buy all of your ingredients and prep your meals without panicking or rushing. Ensuring that your body gets all of the nutrients it needs is crucial to heart health, and preparing meals ahead of time can help with this process.
Allow an Occasional Treat
Being heart-healthy doesn’t mean that you can’t allow yourself an indulgence every once in a while. The important thing to remember is that an occasional indulgence shouldn’t become a regular indulgence.
It can be easy to let a special treat derail you on your heart-healthy journey but don’t let it turn into an excuse to give up on your plan. Use a treat as a reward for your healthy eating habits, and you’ll be more likely to work toward it in the future.
Other Tips to Reduce Risk
While dietary changes may make the biggest difference on your body’s path toward optimal heart health, it’s far from the only aspect to consider.
One of the biggest contributors to heart disease is obesity. By exercising regularly, you can combat obesity and strengthen your heart. Most doctors recommend moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day for optimal heart health.
Additionally, limiting the use of tobacco products, alcohol and drugs can prevent high blood pressure, lung and liver disease and stress on the heart — all factors that can lead to heart disease in the future.
Reach out to Modern Heart and Vascular
Cutting back on unhealthy foods becomes crucial as we age. But focusing on eating heart-healthy foods can benefit people of all ages by decreasing your chances of heart ailments such as heart attacks, strokes and heart disease.
For more information on the best foods to prevent heart disease, consider contacting the experts at Modern Heart and Vascular. Modern Heart and Vascular Institute uses state-of-the-art cardiovascular tools to diagnose and test for heart disease. Contact Modern Heart and Vascular today for more information! If you’d like to learn more about our practice, read our providers’ bios.
This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.