You’ve probably heard some of these heart healthy tips before. It’s always great advice, but without practical applications and explanations, they probably won’t do you a whole lot of good.
Below are my top 5 tips for a long-lasting, heart healthy diet you can really stick with.
- Increase Fiber – Fiber has many health benefits, including helping lower cholesterol, which is great for your heart. It will also help you feel fuller longer. The easiest way to increase your fiber intake is to make sure at least half of your grains are whole grains every day. Try new grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and interesting flour substitutions.
- Reduce Sodium Intake – High blood pressure and heart disease often go hand in hand, so controlling blood pressure is huge for prevention. Reducing your sodium intake is a great way to do this. Cut out or reduce processed meats, packaged snacks and fast food from your diet. Also, try seasoning your food with fresh and dried herbs. They will give dishes so much more flavor than salt!
- Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption – This is tied to #1, since increasing the fruits and vegetables you eat will also increase how much fiber you consume. Fruits and vegetables are also low in fat and great sources of antioxidants, which are great for your heart and your whole body.
- Reduce Sugar Intake – Reducing the sugar in your diet will also help improve cholesterol levels. Less sugar will reduce abdominal fat accumulation, which is the worst place for excess fat since it leads to metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. One of the best ways to reduce sugar intake is to make smart beverage choices by limiting sodas and beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup.
- Reduce Packaged and Processed Foods – Cutting back in this area means you’ll reduce your fat and sodium intake all at once. Keep tons of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts on hand for snacks and spend a little time planning out your meals. This will help keep you from relying on packaged and processed items.
Making positive changes when it comes to all five of these things will help, but how do you stick with the changes once and for all?
One of the best things I like to suggest is working with a partner or buddy. Whether you’re trying to exercise more, improve your eating habits or both (which I highly recommend!), you’re more likely to stick with it if you have a partner.
By Micah Madsen, Brookwood Baptist Registered Dietician
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