How do you maintain a healthy heart? You can’t see it up close so it’s not always easy to tell if your heart is in good shape. Over the age of 40, the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, or high cholesterol goes way up. It’s possible to reduce the risks: exercise regularly, eat a well-rounded diet low in refined foods and saturated fats, and choose heart healthy foods. Learn what some of those are below.
Not Heart Healthy
Let’s start by identifying culprits that undermine your best efforts. Even if you eat well much of the time, the following foods sabotage your plans. Stay away from junk food. A treat once in a while is one thing, but eating French fries, onion rings, and hot dogs regularly is doing you no good. Pizza is fun but the way North Americans eat pizza is that they don’t mind that it’s thick with crust and heavy with fat. If you want something sweet, eat fruit or at least exercise moderation around sweet treats. Notice that many so-called “health foods” are loaded with refined sugar so count most granola or energy bars as desserts, not regular food or healthy snacks.
Heart Healthy Properties
What makes a food “heart healthy?” It promotes circulation, immunity, and weight control. You should always be looking for antioxidant and fiber-rich foods when you go shopping. Don’t do a lot of fancy stuff to meals either. Make stir fries, soups, and salads. Avoiding over-cooking or drowning ingredients in sauces and sodium-laced seasoning will help keep fat and salt down, two killers in the cardiac world.
Do you miss cooked cereal, the kind you ate as a child? Go back to oatmeal drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts. This dish is loaded with fiber and protein. You need fiber to keep your weight down as it maintains healthy bowel movements and promotes a feeling of fullness. If you don’t like oatmeal, consider cooking barley or quinoa in the morning. Don’t reserve cooked cereal for breakfast: it’s great any time.
Eat antioxidant-rich and high-fiber fruits. Promote and enhance your immune response by consuming foods like pomegranate, blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries. You might have noticed that these all share something in common: they are dark red berries. Cherries and blackberries are also good for your heart. Vitamin C in all of these helps your body to fight off germs and improves circulation.
Most of us eat too much meat, thinking this is the best place to find complete protein. Actually, beans are packed with protein too. Select chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, but do it right. Stick to low-fat chili without meat, bean salad with a light dress, or just eat beans with a pinch of salt and pepper. You are making a low fat choice but also one that is high in fiber.
The best fish is wild salmon, but trout and sardines also promote heart health. They contain omega-3 fatty acids which build and repair muscle. Your heart, by the way, is a huge muscle.