One of the main causes of heart disease and stroke is atherosclerosis or the blocking of arteries. Luckily, the artery-clogging process can be slowed down by changing your diet and lifestyle and, in some cases, doing this can even reverse the narrowing of arteries.
Making these dietary and lifestyle changes is even more important if you’ve already had a heart attack or a medical procedure (such as angioplasty, bypass surgery or carotid surgery) to restore blood flow to your heart or other areas of your body. In these cases, acting preventatively can also protect against restenosis, or the re-narrowing of your arteries.
Making these changes can be daunting and perhaps the easiest way to start is to always keep your heart in mind when you eat. Following a heart-healthy diet can help reduce total and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugars levels, and reduce body weight.
You will know, as well as I do, that most diets focus on what you CAN’T or shouldn’t eat. More often than not, this includes almost all your favourite foods! That’s why adding heart-saving foods to your diet instead of just cutting back on food that is less good for you, is a much better strategy for incorporating these healthy changes into your life.
In the post, 3 Simple Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Without Harmful Drugs, we showed you how to maintain healthy cholesterol levels without taking statin drugs. Add to that the following 5 nutritional tips and you will be well on your way to a healthier heart:
1. Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes: Sulphoraphane found in vegetables like broccoli, has been proven to have heart-protecting benefits. Eating more fruit and grains will increase your dietary fibre, which will also help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
2. Choose fat calories wisely: Limit your total fat intake. Eat less saturated fats and trans-fatty acids (for example, fats found in margarine, salad dressing, sweets and desserts). Avoid partially hydrogenated oils as much as possible. These are usually found in processed or manufactured foods, like margarine, and will sometimes appear on labels as ‘vegetable oils’. Eat more monounsaturated fats (for example, fats found in olive and peanut oil). Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that promote heart health.
3. Eat a variety of protein foods: Balance your intake of protein by having a variety of protein foods from animal, fish and vegetable sources. Animal protein like red meat and dairy products are among the main culprits for increasing heart disease risk. Eating more fish, like omega-3-rich salmon will not only help protect your heart but will also boost your energy levels, help fight certain types of cancer, improve your sleep, help with arthritis, reduce high blood pressure and improve cognitive function.
4. Eating complex carbohydrates: Whole-wheat pasta, brown or wild rice, root vegetables, oat, barley and whole-grain breads are all complex carbohydrates that are rich in fibre and contain nutrients like phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates (including white bread and pasta, and biscuits), that can all increase your LDL cholesterol levels and raise your risk of heart disease.
5. Feed your body regularly: Skipping meals often leads to overeating. For some, eating five to six mini-meals may help keep cravings in check, help control blood sugars and regulate metabolism. This approach may not be as effective for those who are tempted to overeat every time they are exposed to food. For these individuals, three balanced meals a day may be a better approach.
Here’s to keeping your heart strong and healthy
for The Cholesterol Truth
Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
‘Include complex carbohydrates in your diet to lose weight’ published online 11. 09.09, fastandquickweightloss.com
What are the health benefits of olive oil? Is extra-virgin oil better than regular olive oil?, published online, mayoclinic.com
‘High Cholesterol: Heart-Healthy Diet’ published online, webmd.com
Category: Diet and Exercise