Eating heart-healthy foods may be easier than you think. You don't need to measure or weigh everything or consult calorie books and food labels before every meal. You can fit a healthy diet into a busy lifestyle.
It can be as simple as 1-2-3. Just focus on these three areas, says Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, a dietitian and assistant clinical professor at the school of nursing at the University of California at San Francisco:
I had no inkling I had heart disease until December 2005, when I had two minor episodes of mild angina (pain in the chest area). My primary care physician ran an electrocardiogram but saw nothing abnormal. I was an athletic, lean 53-year-old who ate nutritious foods. He decided I was just stressed and gave me the go-ahead to go to Nicaragua on vacation.
But while there, the angina went from mild to severe. The pain would come and go, but on three separate occasions the pain was the most massive...
Fiber helps lower cholesterol and your chances of heart disease. You should get 20-30 grams of fiber a day. Most adults in the U.S. get about half that.
To boost fiber, eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Eat one or the other with every meal and snack. Or fill ½ of your plate at every meal with fruits and vegetables. (Fill another ¼ with a lean protein and the last ¼ with a healthy starch, like whole wheat pasta or half a sweet potato.)
Choose deep-colored fruits and vegetables. Add a different color fruit to your breakfast each day. Serve a vegetable-loaded salad or soup with dinner.
"Grill a variety of vegetables to bring out the natural flavor," says Joan Salge Blake, RD, LDN, a dietitian and clinical associate professor at Boston University. "Have some for dinner and some for lunch the next day."
Fiber is also in whole grains, dried beans, seeds, and nuts. To get more of these foods:
Eat whole-grain bread and cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber.
Sprinkle oat bran or wheat germ on salad, soup, cereal, and yogurt.
Toss some beans into salads.
Switch to Healthier Fats
The type of fat you eat is important for protecting your ticker. Saturated fats -- in meat, cheese, butter, whole milk, and cream -- can be bad for your heart and arteries. They raise "bad" LDL cholesterol. Unsaturated fats -- such as those in oily fish, flaxseed, and walnuts -- can be good for your heart. If you swap out saturated fats and eat more unsaturated fats, you’re less likely to get heart disease.