Healthier Hearts Start with Healthier Diets

vegetablesAs much as we try to deny it when reaching for that donut, we really are what we choose to eat. As we continue to explore the “how” of creating a more heart-healthy lifestyle, we would be remiss if we did not address one of the key points suggested by the American Heart Association: healthy eating.

Dr. Angela Fitch, vice president of UC Health’s Primary Care Network, has six simple tips for getting started towards a healthier lifestyle, especially through more mindful eating:

  • “Avoid fad diets. I have a rule of thumb: The faster you take weight off, the faster you’ll put it back on if you are not able to stick to the changes you have made. Losing weight is a slow, steady march where the basics will always be true: eat planned portions of plants and protein and consistently increase your daily activity.
  • Eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. The CDC found that Ohioans eat an average of 1.5 servings –nowhere close to where we should be! Confused about what a serving is? It’s generally one cup of fruit or vegetables. is an excellent resource from the USDA on recommended nutrition and serving size.  They also have a tracking tool you can use to make sure you are staying on track.
  • Eat 2-3 servings of dairy each day. Dairy provides us with the potassium, calcium and magnesium we need to stay healthy and strong. One serving could be a cup of (skim) milk, a container of yogurt or 1 ½ cups of low-fat or fat- free ice cream.
  • Know your fiber. Soluble fiber can slow digestion, making you feel full sooner and aid in weight loss. Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, apples, strawberries, nuts, and many others. Insoluble fiber aids in digestion and moves food through your body to avoid constipation. Good sources of insoluble fiber include leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and others.
  • Be smart about fats. There are three types of fats: saturated (unhealthy), trans fat (unhealthy) and unsaturated fat (healthy). You should eat 3-5 servings of healthy fats in a week, such as salmon, tuna, flaxseed, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, flaxseed or soybean oils.
  • Get moving. Even if you follow healthy eating habits to a T, you’re only halfway to a healthier you. Exercise is an important part of getting, and staying healthy. So grab a friend, lace up some walking shoes and enjoy the warm weather we’re finally having!  Consider getting a pedometer or use a mobile pedometer app on your phone and set a goal to increase your steps by 100 steps each day until you get to the goal of 10,000 a day.”

According to Sonal Hill, a registered dietitian at UC Health, having a heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean completely cutting out foods on the “bad” list, but instead focusing on incorporating good foods into meals most of the time. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, seafood, nuts and legumes is a good way to bring more heart-healthy foods into your diet.

To further improve your heart health, cutting sugar and salt are two simple things you can do to help lower your blood pressure. Here are some easy ways to cut sugar and salt from your diet:

  • Cut out soda and other beverages with added sugar
  • Eat fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits
  • Add fruit to your cereal or oatmeal in the mornings
  • Cut back on sugar and salt requested in recipes, replacing with spices or herbs
  • Remove sugar and salt containers from view
  • Avoid processed foods, which are often packed with salt and added sugars
  • Taste your food before adding salt or sugar to it

By following these simple steps, you will be eating your way to a healthier heart!

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