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What exactly is a heart-healthy diet? You hear it from your doctor and see it in advertisements, wellness articles and on the sides of food packaging, but you may not completely understand what it means. If your knowledge of a heart-healthy diet starts and ends with knowing that you should be eating one, here is a beginner’s guide to eating in a way that is good for your heart.
It’s about quality and quantity: Portion control is a huge part of eating heart healthy. Determining serving sizes is a learned skill that can be difficult to judge by appearance. Don’t feel silly about using measuring cups and spoons to size out your servings for meals until you become a better judge. The American Heart Association has a suggested servings guide for each food group that you can reference to get started.
Fruits and vegetables all the way: Increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables means you’ll likely be cutting back on higher calorie foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods. The next time you go grocery shopping, stock up on plenty of your favorite fruits and veggies you can easily reach for when you’re looking for a snack and can incorporate into mealtime.
Select whole grains: Whole grains play a significant role in helping you regulate your blood pressure. It’s recommended that you try to get three or more servings of fiber-rich whole grains each day. Look for foods like brown rice, barley, whole-grain pastas and breads, oatmeal, quinoa and farro.
Limit unhealthy fats: Trans-fat should always be avoided when possible, and saturated fat should make up no more than 6 percent of your total daily calories (based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet). To start making this change, trim fat off your meat before cooking and add less butter or margarine to your food overall. Instead, cook with olive oil, canola oil, and vegetable and nut oils.
Halt the salt: High blood pressure is a risk of cardiovascular disease, and one that can be increased by lowering the amount of sodium in your diet. A lot of canned soups, prepared foods and condiments pack a ton of salt that you may not be aware of. Take charge by reading ingredient labels with a closer eye. Healthy adults should have no more than 2,300 mg of salt per day. That’s about a teaspoon.
A heart-healthy diet wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of physical activity––about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week is recommended for adults.