Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans. Improving your diet and lifestyle habits can help prevent heart disease. With some simple changes to your food choices, you can reduce your risk and lower your LDL or bad Cholesterol and thus your risk of heart disease.
These changes in daily food choices include:
- Choosing high fiber whole grains
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Limiting saturated and trans fats
Choose high fiber whole grains
When choosing grains try to make half of them “whole.” Whole grains provide necessary fiber to our diet. There are numerous, tasty, options available when substituting for pasta, bread, or other carbs. These options may include barley, buckwheat, cornmeal, oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, as well as rye.
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is key to heart health. If you are overweight, a weight loss of 3-5% will reduce your triglycerides and blood glucose. Losing 5-10% per year can significantly reduce your blood cholesterol. Cutting 500 calories/day equates to one pound of weight loss per week. Simple changes such as reducing portion sizes, drinking calorie-free beverages, and reading food labels can help you achieve this number. Increasing physical activity is also a pillar of a healthy weight. Ask your physician about ways you can increase your physical activity.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and can help you maintain a healthy weight. Adding them to your diet can be simple. Top your cereal, oatmeal or pancakes with apples or berries. Make certain every meal has at least one vegetable. Frozen vegetables are a great option during colder months. When purchasing canned vegetables, try to buy a reduced sodium option or rinse them before cooking and serving.
Limit saturated and trans-fats
The good news on trans-fats is that they gradually being removed from products we eat–but is still important to read labels. Avoid products with partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils as these are trans-fats. When choosing dairy, an easy way to reduce saturated fat intake is by choosing low-fat or skim products. To limit saturated fat when eating meat, trim the fat and remove the skin. In lieu of trans/saturated fats, opt for healthy fats like those in olive oil, avocado, and peanut butter or twice per week try fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or albacore tuna. Healthy Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in flaxseed, canola and soybean oils.
My recommendation is to make on one small change at a time. Maybe start by eating more whole grains, then add in fruits and vegetables, or eliminate trans-fats. Finally remove beverages that are high in sugar and start using smaller plates to limit portion sizes. After a short time you will see results and begin feeling and looking better!