You’ve heard it over and over again – eat poorly and you contribute to your risk for heart disease; eat well and you reduce your risk. Initiating 7 simple diet strategies could cumulatively reduce your risk for heart disease by 20 to 30%.
1. Eat less saturated fat and trans fat; eat more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
Reduce the amount of animal fat you regularly eat – meat, butter, bacon, cheese.
Try to eliminate as much trans fat as possible — fried foods, and solid shortening found in baked sweets, such as cookies, pastries and cakes. The good news is that there are less trans fat foods on the market today.
Eat more olive, sunflower, canola, corn and soybean oil
Eat more nuts and seeds.
We now understand it isn’t how much fat, but the kind of fat you eat that increases your risk for heart disease.
2. Eat more omega-3 fats.
Eat fish often, at least twice a week.
Eat omega-3 rich foods, including flaxseed, walnuts, purslane, soy, and pumpkin seeds.
Try some omega-3 enriched foods – orange juice, soymilk, and eggs.
In a number of large population studies the risk for heart disease was reduced 46% to 70% in those with high omega-3 intakes.
3. Eat more whole grains and more fiber.
Whole grain foods are rich in fiber, but not all fiber-fortified foods are whole grain. Choose whole grains whenever possible. A food that is a good source of fiber has 3 grams of fiber per serving; an excellent source has 5 or more grams per serving.
4. Eat more veggies and fruits.
There is no denying it, fruit and vegetables (including beans) are nature’s superfoods. For each additional serving you eat daily, you decrease your risk for heart disease by 4%.
5. Think outside the box when it comes to protein.
Switch some animal protein for vegetable protein – try having at least 1 meatless meal each week. Use meat to flavor dishes rather than dominate your plate. Keep portions reasonable, about 4 ounces.
Areas of the world that eat the most animal foods have the highest rates of heart disease.
6. Eat regularly; don’t fast then feast.
People who eat 6 small meals a day have lower cholesterol levels than those who eat 1 to 2 big meals each day. Eating small frequent meals also helps to regulate blood sugar and triglyceride levels and promotes more reasonable portion sizes.
7. Eat foods daily that protect your heart.
Use foods that are enriched with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols. Get enough antioxidant vitamins, B vitamins, and phytonutrients – hint, hint – fruits, vegetables and whole grains are loaded with these. Get enough potassium, magnesium and calcium – fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods are your best sources. And, a drink a day has been shown over and over again to protect your heart – just don’t overdo it. In this case, more is not better.