What you eat affects the health of your heart. There are many factors that influence your heart disease risk so being heart healthy is important. While you can’t control all of them, like family history or age, there are some risk factors you can do something about.
Adopting a heart healthy way of eating is one step you can take towards a healthier heart. A nutrient-rich diet low in saturated fat and sodium and abundant in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and fish may help lower your risk for heart disease.
Here are 6 heart-healthy eating tips:
- Stock up on superfoods. Some foods contain nutrients that have been shown to offer heart health benefits, such as oats, broccoli, blueberries and wild salmon. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Green tea contains antioxidants that may protect you from heart disease.
- Go nuts. Nuts provide protein, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and other important vitamins and minerals that may help reduce your risk of heart disease. Some of the best options for heart health are walnuts and almonds.
- Satisfy a sweet tooth with dark chocolate. Research shows that dark chocolate contains antioxidants that may help prevent cholesterol from sticking to artery walls and reducing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- Be selective with dairy. When you consume cheese, milk or yogurt, selecting non-fat or low-fat options will reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. This is beneficial to your heart because saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels.
- Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. Commonly found in fish such as wild salmon and tuna, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, which is a precursor to heart disease. If you don’t enjoy fish or are a vegetarian, try adding flaxseeds or walnuts to your diet.
- Know your fats. While unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are good for your heart when consumed in moderation, saturated and trans fats are not. Olive oil, nuts and avocados are examples of good fats. Limit the amount of saturated fat you eat, as found in fatty cuts of meat and cheese. Stay away from trans fats found in vegetable shortenings, margarines, crackers, cookies and foods made with partially hydrogenated oils.
Unsure which foods are best for you?
Make an appointment at UVA’s Nutritional Counseling Center today!
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