If you want to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, you have to exercise and eat a heart-healthy diet.
That’s the advice you’ll get from your doctor.
And it’s true!
However, what exactly is heart-healthy?
Is it only eating certain types of foods and eliminating others? Or is there a way to get to that elusive heart-healthy status while still enjoying the dietary splurges, such as eating out, that bring a smile to your face?
Luckily, the American Heart Association has the answer with 10 steps that can keep your heart at its best, lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, without feeling deprived.
Rethinking the focus on individual foods
In fact, according to the American Heart Association team, focusing on individual foods isn’t the best way to level up your heart health.
Instead, you should think of caring for your heart in terms of your overall dietary pattern.
Basically, rather than looking at individual foods as either good or bad, you simply need to work towards balance and variety in your nutrition, while working to make better choices.
And this includes when you eat out, which the researchers say is not something you have to give up.
“You can absolutely adapt a heart-healthy diet to different lifestyles, including one that incorporates eating out at restaurants. It might take a little planning, however, after the first few times it can become routine,” says Professor Alice Lichtenstein, the director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
The rules at a glance
The 10 steps they say you should follow are:
- Balance food and calorie intake with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.
- Choose a wide variety and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get a full range of nutrients from food rather than supplements;
- Choose whole grains and other foods made up mostly of whole grains;
- Include healthy sources of lean and/or high-fiber protein such as plant proteins (nuts and legumes), fish or seafood, low fat or non-fat dairy, lean cuts of meat and limit red meat and processed meats;
- Use liquid non-tropical plant oils such as olive or sunflower oils;
- Choose minimally processed foods rather than ultra-processed foods as much as possible;
- Minimize intake of beverages and foods with added sugars;
- Choose or prepare foods with little or no salt;
- Limit alcohol consumption; if you don’t drink, do not start; and
- Apply this guidance no matter where food is prepared or consumed.
Common sense steps to a healthy heart!.
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New look at nutrition research identifies 10 features of a heart-healthy eating pattern – American Heart Association