Choosing the right foods can help manage symptoms of heart disease and help prevent further complications. Improving your diet and fitness can slow the artery-clogging process, and may even stop or reverse the narrowing of arteries. It also lowers your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugars, and weight.
Heart-healthy eating isn’t only about staying away from foods that are off-limits. Adding certain types of foods is just as important as cutting back on others. Use these 9 strategies to help you eat right with heart disease:
- Know the basics. The foundation of your food plan is simple: Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. They’re all powerful foods that help you fight heart disease.
- Make it delicious. Healthy food can be tasty! Liking what you're eating helps you to stick with the plan. Ask your doctor if she can recommend a dietitian who will help you with cooking tips or advice on ordering when dining out.
- Get enough protein. Include a variety of protein foods (lean meat, low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts, legumes, and fish).
- Limit fat. Avoid eating saturated fats (butter, full-fat dairy products, fatty cuts of meats) and trans fats (found in some packaged baked goods, microwave popcorn, and deep-fried foods). Favor monounsaturated fats (canola and olive oils and some nuts, for example), and follow your doctor's guidelines about how much fat is too much.
- Choose the right kinds of carbs. When you eat a meal, half of the calories should come from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, or other plant foods. Limit sugary items.
- Don’t skip meals. Missing a meal sets you up to overeat. Having five to six mini-meals is a solution, as long as you don't go overboard on calories.
- Eat less salt. Excess salt can raise blood pressure. Adding foods rich in other minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium is also important.
- Exercise every day. Exercise strengthens your heart, improves blood flow, curbs high blood pressure, raises HDL "good," cholesterol, and helps control blood sugars and body weight.
- Hydrate. Staying well-hydrated makes you feel energetic and eat less. Ask your doctor about how much water you should drink each day, in case you need any restrictions. And remember, foods that are rich in water count, too.