Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It is estimated that, on average, one out of every three deaths in the United States today is due to heart disease.
This startling statistic can be attributed to several factors, including poor diet and lack of exercise. Addressing these issues head-on can make a significant impact on our health, as well as prevent future health problems.
What is a Heart Healthy Diet?
A heart-healthy diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and has moderate amounts of protein. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a heart-healthy diet as one that meets the following guidelines:
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
A 3-cup serving (100 grams) of fresh fruit contains about 60 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 4 grams sugar. A cup (120 grams) of cooked vegetables contains about 20 calories, 1 gram of fibre, and no sugar.
Limit Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
Most saturated fat comes from animal products such as meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and tropical oils. Healthy unsaturated fats can come from plant sources such as olive oil or canola oil.
To lower our chances of heart disease, don’t eat more than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat. Limit as well the intake of dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams per day or less.
Choose Lean Meats and Poultry
Lean meats include turkey breast without the skin, chicken thigh without the skin or wing tips, fish fillets without the skin or bones, and beef top sirloin steak without the marbling (the fatty tissues near the muscle).
Include Legumes in Meals
A 3-cup serving of cooked beans or peas (120 grams) contains about 25 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and no sugar should do the trick.
Healthy Recipes for the Heart
Some of the best ways to cook healthy food for the heart are using fresh ingredients, avoiding processed foods, and cooking meals from scratch. Cooked whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and low-fat dairy products can all be healthy choices when preparing meals.
Additionally, baking is a great way to add some extra nutrients to one’s diet and ensure that the food is cooked at a high temperature to retain most nutrients. Another great way to cook healthy food for the heart is by using spices. Not only do spices add flavor to our food, but they can also help to regulate blood sugar levels and promote overall health. Use herbs and spices in moderation; too much spice can be harmful.
When it comes to cooking methods, there are a few things that we should keep in mind:
- Try to avoid boiling or poaching food; these methods can lead to water retention, which can compromise the integrity of our organs. Try simmering or baking foods instead.
- Use the right cooking oil when frying foods. Oils such as olive oil or canola oil are healthier than saturated fats such as butter or lard.
- Remember that homemade meals are usually more nutritious than those from a restaurant or supermarket because they’re likely made with fresh ingredients rather than processed ones.
Benefits of a Healthy Heart
A healthy heart is essential for long life, and eating right can help keep it running smoothly. Here are some of the benefits of a heart-healthy diet:
- A healthy heart is less likely to experience coronary heart disease or other cardiovascular illnesses.
- Eating healthy foods can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promoting better cardiac health.
- Eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins helps protect against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures and increased heart attack and stroke risk.
- Regular exercise can also support a healthy heart by improving circulation, reducing stress levels, decreasing weight, reducing harmful cholesterol levels, promoting better sleep habits, and more.
Top Tips for Cooking Heart-Healthy Meals
Start With Whole Foods
The best way to fuel our body is with whole, unprocessed foods. This means opting for items like fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins. These foods provide the nutrients our body needs without all the added sugar and other unhealthy additives.
Make Sure Meals are Colourful
When it comes to eating healthy, incorporating more colourful vegetables and fruits into our diet is vital. Research has shown that these foods have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Keep Portion Sizes in Check
One of the main ways to prevent heart disease is by avoiding excessive weight gain and obesity. Too much fat in our diet can increase cholesterol levels and lead to heart disease. Likewise, inadequate intake of essential nutrients-like protein and fibre-can also cause health problems. So make sure we’re eating enough calories but not too many unhealthy carbs or fats!
A Healthy and Balanced Diet Leads to a Healthy Heart
The benefits of a healthy diet go beyond keeping our hearts healthy; they also help us maintain our overall health and reduce our risk of developing chronic diseases. The American Heart Association has recommended that everyone consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily to promote good heart health.
Start by following these simple guides for cooking healthy food for a healthier heart.