10 Heart-Healthy Diet Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

10 Heart-Healthy Diet Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
It’s essential to start eating this way early in life and stick with it for the long term, heart experts say. TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

We all want a healthy heart for life. Diet can make a big difference in achieving that goal.

On Tuesday, the American Heart Association released its list of the 10 key components that make up a heart-healthy eating pattern.

The advice may sound familiar, but the scientific statement, published in the journal Circulation, focuses on "the balance, variety, and combination of foods" people eat, rather than individual foods or nutrients.

"It doesn't have to be complicated, time-consuming, expensive, or unattractive," said Alice Lichtenstein, chair of the scientific statement writing group and director of the cardiovascular nutrition team at Tufts University's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston. in a sentence.

“You can absolutely fit a heart-healthy diet into different lifestyles, including one that incorporates restaurant eating. It may take a bit of planning, however, after the first few times it can become routine.”

It's essential to start eating this way early in life and stick with it long-term, the authors wrote.
Healthy diet tips

Here are their 10 recommendations:

1. Maintain a healthy weight throughout life

This means balancing food and calorie intake with physical activity. The authors recommended a healthy dietary pattern that includes portion control along with at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. People should eat less as they age because daily energy needs decrease by as much as 100 calories with each decade.

2. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables, whether fresh, frozen, canned, or dried, but "except white potatoes," are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, the authors noted. They recommended choosing brightly colored produce, such as green leafy vegetables and peaches, to get more nutrients.

It is also better to eat whole fruits and vegetables than juice because the whole form contains more fiber and makes a person feel fuller. It's best to get a full range of nutrients from food rather than supplements.

Healthy diet tips

3. Choose whole grains

Eating whole grains like brown rice instead of refined grains like white rice improves cardiovascular risk factors, studies show. Products made with at least 51% whole grains are typically classified as whole grains.

4. Include healthy sources of protein

This means mostly plant proteins, like legumes and nuts, which are also good sources of fiber. Legumes include soybeans (which can be in the form of edamame and tofu), lentils, chickpeas, and split peas.

Right now, plant-based meat alternatives require "some caution" because many are ultra-processed and contain added sugar, saturated fat, salt, stabilizers, and preservatives, the authors wrote.

Regular consumption of fish and shellfish, at least two servings per week, was also recommended due to its omega-3 fatty acid content, although fried fish did not provide the same heart health benefits as baked or broiled fish. vapor.

It's best to replace full-fat dairy products with low-fat or fat-free options to reduce your intake of saturated fat.

If you still want to eat meat and poultry, stick with the lean cuts. Limit red and processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and salami to reduce salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

Healthy diet tips

5. Use liquid non-tropical vegetable oils

This means olive, canola, sunflower, soybean, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils, plus the fat found in walnuts and flaxseed.

Avoid coconut oil, butter, lard, and partially hydrogenated fats.

6. Choose minimally-processed foods

These contain no added salt, sugar, fat, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. A fresh apple, a homemade fish fillet, bagged spinach, and raw unsalted nuts are examples of unprocessed or minimally processed foods.

Store-bought cakes, cookies, and frozen pizza are examples of highly processed foods.

7. Minimize sugary drinks and foods

Added sugars, such as glucose, dextrose, sucrose, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrate, have been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and excess weight.

Low-calorie sweetened beverages may not be better alternatives because there have been "mixed findings" about their impact on body weight and metabolic outcomes, the authors noted.

8. Choose or prepare foods with little or no salt

This is because there is a "direct and positive relationship" between salt intake and blood pressure, the release noted. Eating less salt lowers blood pressure, an effect that is greater in black people, middle-aged and older people, and people with high blood pressure.

In the US, processed foods, meals prepared outside the home, packaged foods, and restaurant foods account for nearly three-quarters of total dietary sodium, the release noted. Remember: even foods labeled 100% whole grain or organic can be high in salt.

Healthy diet tips

9. Restrict alcohol consumption

There is a "complex" relationship between alcohol consumption and heart disease, the authors acknowledged.

Although low alcohol intake has been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke, the AHA does not support starting to drink at any level, "given uncertainty about the net health effects."

If you don't drink, don't start; if you already do, limit yourself to one drink per day.

10. Follow this guidance wherever food is prepared or eaten.

Food is all around us, so remember this list every time you make a choice. It can make the difference between a healthy heart and an unhealthy one.

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