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:
Lots of people worry about atherosclerosis -- or hardening of the arteries
-- as a factor in heart
disease and stroke. But did you know that diabetes, high
cholesterol, high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity are
all major risk factors for atherosclerosis?
Take the case of Barbie Perkins-Cooper, 57, a writer from Mount Pleasant,
S.C. When she discovered that she had type 2
diabetes, she also discovered that she was at risk for atherosclerosis.
What's worse: her high cholesterol...
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.