Eat these foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner to maintain good heart health. When it comes to your overall health, taking care of your heart is paramount.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. People with heart disease are at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease, and sudden cardiac arrest. Avoiding these health issues and maintaining good heart health starts with a healthy diet. Here, experts give advice on the types of foods to include in your diet to protect your heart.
Fiber is essential for a heart-healthy breakfast
Breakfast hasn’t been dubbed the most important meal of the day for nothing. Fill up on foods high in fiber and low in unhealthy saturated fats in the morning to start the day off right. Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains for breakfast. Oats are also a smart breakfast option. It’s made from 100% whole grains and is a good source of soluble fibre, which means it’s not only good for your health, but keeps you full until lunchtime.
A study published in the July-August 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that participants who ate breakfast daily, particularly when consuming more than 25 grams of total fiber per day, had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and death from all causes. Additionally, oats may help lower blood cholesterol levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease.
A few dairy products well chosen and in moderation
Although dairy products sometimes get a bad rap, they can be an important part of a healthy breakfast and diet. A study published in The Lancet in September 2018 found dairy consumption was associated with a lower risk of death and a lower risk of major cardiac events. Many people who don’t have a dairy allergy or intolerance choose to avoid them anyway and use dairy-free alternatives. Dairy products can be a valuable part of a balanced diet. They are one of the main dietary sources of calcium and provide more protein, on average, than any plant-based dairy product. Stick to fat-free or low-fat dairy varieties. This is because whole dairy products contain unhealthy saturated fats.
Don’t be afraid of eggs for breakfast
Avoid breakfast foods high in saturated fat, refined grains, and sugars, including bacon, sausages, waffles, pancakes, and sugary cereals. All of these foods can raise bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are bad for heart health.
And while eggs have been a somewhat controversial heart health food because they’re high in dietary cholesterol, research showing that a moderate amount of dietary cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol levels in women most people. A study, published in March 2016 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that eating one egg a day, including the yolk, was not associated with an increased risk of heart disease. As when cooking other foods, a little healthy fat, like olive oil, or none at all, like poached or boiled eggs, is best. When you fry eggs in a ton of butter, it adds unhealthy saturated fat, which is bad for heart health.
Stock up on heart-healthy fruits and veggies for breakfast
For lunch, a hearty salad or soup are usually healthy options, but there are a few general rules to keep in mind. Salads are considered a classic health food, but not all salads are created equal. Some salads can contain 1,000 calories or more. To make your salad heart healthy, use a variety of green and fresh vegetables. Avoid toppings like cheese, bacon, and croutons, which can add a lot of fat and sodium. Instead of croutons or bacon for crunch, consider adding a small amount of nuts, such as almonds or pecans, or try seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin or flax seeds. These will still add fat, but less saturated fat and more healthier fat.
Soups sometimes get a bad rap for being high in sodium and unhealthy fats. But choosing a broth-based soup that’s low in sodium is a great option for a meal. Opt for soups that are full of vegetables, which can fill you up with relatively few calories. A healthy soup can also aid weight loss, help you maintain a healthy weight, and lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Supplement your greens with a lean protein for dinner
For dinner, try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. If you add meat to your meal, choose something lean, like skinless chicken or turkey breast. If you buy ground meat, get meat labeled 93 or 97 percent lean on the package. Portions should not exceed the size of a deck of cards. Fish can be a key part of a heart-healthy diet, as well as a good source of protein and heart-healthy fats called omega-3s.
Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3s also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the vessel walls. Try to incorporate fish into your diet twice a week. Start by replacing one red meat meal per week with fish options, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel or sardines. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid fried foods and foods with heavy cream or cheese sauces. Opt for grilled or baked foods instead.
Ditch the junk food and stock up on heart-healthy snacks
While snacking is often associated with unhealthy foods, like chips or cookies, snacking on healthy foods can quell your hunger and control your weight, which is essential for a healthy heart. Snacks are a great opportunity to add heart-healthy fruits and vegetables. Choose foods with protein and fiber, two nutrients that will help you stay full until the next meal.
Snacking on nuts like almonds, cashews, or walnuts is a great heart-healthy option. A study published in the March-April 2021 Journal of Clinical Lipidology involving 39,000 women found that those who ate nuts several times a week had a lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Other heart-healthy snacks to keep on hand are fruits, such as:
– fresh vegetables and hummus.
Snacks to avoid are those that are processed or contain refined grains, added sugar, or unhealthy saturated or trans fats, such as:
– Chocolate bars
– Baked goods