Keeping your ticker healthy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and, best of all, it’s actually pretty easy to do once you learn the appropriate ways! I wanted to share with you 5 key things you need to be aware of and tweak in your everyday living to increase your heart health!
1. The F Word. Starting with the F word… Fat. Contrary to popular belief, low-fat diets do not benefit heart health. In fact, when fat is replaced with refined carbohydrates and sugar, it actually increases your risk for heart disease. Strong scientific evidence shows that a higher relative intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is associated with decreased heart disease risk. There is still debate about the effect of saturated fats on heart health; however, the current consensus among the experts is that replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates and sugar is more harmful to heart health than simply eating the saturated fat. Replacing saturated fat with poly and mono unsaturated fat has been shown to benefit heart health. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can go out and eat everything saturated fat and call it healthy. These fats need to be consumed in moderation – small amounts go a long way!
Foods high in Polyunsaturated Fats: corn oil, safflower oil, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout. Other sources include walnuts and sunflower seeds.
Foods high in Monounsaturated Fat: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, avocados, peanut butter, almond oil, hemp oil, and cashews.
2. Sweet and Sour of Sugar. Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars is associated with increased weight gain, obesity and chronic inflammation in the body. The low fat diet craze has been implicated for the rise in obesity and other chronic illnesses associated with increased weight gain. This all began in the 1970’s due to the rise in heart disease. From there we see the low fat diet craze begin. Well, they removed the fat so they had to replace it with something with a lower amount of calories and fat content. Little did they know this would create a huge health problem down the road. Food companies reduced the fat but added sugar to make it taste better. Healthy, huh? They also removed the fiber to make the shelf life longer.
I could stay on this subject forever, but to save some time, pay attention to the amount of sugar you are consuming. You may be eating healthy, but those “healthy” foods can be loaded with sugars. Take a peak and opt for natural, non-added sugars. Fruits and veggies are perfect. You know nature knows what it’s doing. It packaged fruits and vegetables with the perfect amounts of fiber, sugar and carbohydrates, all in one. If you are eating gluten free, pay VERY close attention to the prepackaged items you are buying. More often than not, these items are LOADED with sugars to make them taste better and to increase the shelf life. Stick to whole foods and creating recipes of your own. Let your kitchen be your health laboratory.
3. Salty! What’s the deal with Sodium? Consuming excess sodium causes the body to retain water and increase blood volume. This is when you get the red, swollen hands or feet. You may even see it in other parts of your body as well. As a result of increased blood volume, your heart has to work harder to pump all of that blood into various parts of your body, which increases blood pressure. This also happens when you have increased inflammation going on in your body. High blood pressure is a major marker for heart disease.
The main foods you need to bring into your awareness to avoid are processed meats, cheeses, canned soups, sauces, and even BREAD! To reduce your sodium intake, cook from scratch. (I know what you are thinking…I DON’T HAVE TIME!) Do you have time for heart disease? That’s what I thought. Use lots of whole fruits and veggies, herbs, spices, vinegar, and citrus. I promise that your food will taste better. You must retrain your taste buds.
4. Functional Fiber! I know you have probably heard this word spoken to you about 100 times… well here goes 101 times. Fiber is your friend. I am not taking about fiber supplements. I am talking real food fiber. Fiber is important for reducing blood cholesterol levels and also helps to maintain a healthy weight. The soluble fiber in foods acts like the clean-up crew in your body. It swells up in the digestive tract and binds some cholesterol and fat, and carries them through the intestines for elimination. Some good sources of fiber are apples, oats, flaxseed, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit (in their natural form), beans, lentils, and gluten free grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, teff, brown rice.
5. Create a Healthy Environment and Lifestyle. There are so many ways to be active. There really is no excuse to not include exercise in your everyday life. I know people are working constantly, myself included, but I take an hour each day and call that my “me time.” That’s when I get my workout in. If you cannot take an hour, take 10-15 minutes each day. Go for a walk, do some yoga, take the dog for a walk, or climb the stairs. You WILL feel better, your mind will be clearer and, hey, you will be on the road to a healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy life!