8 Ways to Make Your Diet More Heart-Healthy
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference
Stop smoking, exercise, lose weight, and eat healthfully -- that's the
mantra heard across the country from cardiologists. That's because diet and
lifestyle changes can help prevent heart disease, improve your cardiovascular
function, and help you live a longer life.
In fact, according to a recent study in the BMJ, encouraging everyone
to follow a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle could substantially cut the number
of deaths from heart disease.
So what exactly should you be eating for optimal heart health? Here are some
simple dietary changes that can make a difference, according to experts and
A Mediterranean-style diet may help lower the risk of heart disease.
People who live in the Mediterranean region enjoy a bounty of fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, beans, olive oil, seafood and lean meats. Eating
fewer refined grains and plenty of seafood are thought to be among the secrets
to their lower rates of heart disease.
Increasing the soluble fiber in your diet is another easy
heart-healthy change. The fiber found in foods like oats, legumes, fruits, and
vegetables can help lower cholesterol levels. So start your day with a bowl of
oatmeal topped with fruit for a nutritious breakfast that will keep you feeling
full all morning. And enjoy beans on your salad or in soups to pump up the
fiber while helping to lower your cholesterol level.
Recent research suggests that whole grains can slow the rate of heart
disease progression. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2005 Dietary
Guidelines recommend that at least half of your daily grain servings come from
whole grains. Whenever you can, choose any of these whole grains instead of
- Whole wheat
- Whole oats/oatmeal
- Whole grain corn
- Brown rice
- Whole rye
- Whole grain barley
- Wild rice
- Bulgur (cracked wheat)
A low-fat diet is not only lower in calories, but is also important
for heart health. Choosing lower-fat sources of protein such as low-fat or
nonfat dairy products, skinless poultry breast, pork tenderloin, and
"round" cuts of beef will help reduce the fat in your eating plan.
Avoiding foods that are fried or processed with fats (such as cookies,
crackers, baked goods, and other snack foods) is another way to cut the fat in
Avoiding trans fats and saturated fats is especially important for
managing your cholesterol levels. So whenever possible, opt for an unsaturated
fat instead of one that is saturated or contains trans fats. Look for the
helpful monounsaturated fats found in canola oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts,
and seeds. Other unsaturated fats, such as corn, safflower and soybean oil, are
also better choices than saturated or trans fats. But keep in mind that
unsaturated fats are still fats, still high-calorie, and need to be limited in