What is a "Heart-Healthy" diet?

I've been a busy bee lately, with a new project up my sleeve. I've been substituting ingredients in time-tested, favourite recipes to make them more heart-healthy. Yes, it's past time to take tender loving care of all our hearts at home.

Making good food choices is key in reducing the risk of heart diseases. Although this is important for people of all ages, it is crucial for people in their forties and above. The time to start eating right and living right is right now.

Combined with a healthy lifestyle of daily exercise, a heart-healthy diet reduces the risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, artery disease (just to name a few). It controls blood pressure and blood sugar levels and reduces cholesterol. It also helps us maintain a healthy weight. Generally, eating healthy is just making good food choices - choosing whole foods, lean meats, using more herbs instead of salt as flavouring, using less sugar or healthier sweetening alternatives, and reducing intake of over-refined, processed, high sodium and sugary foods. The way we cook also makes a difference, for instance, roasting food is just as delicious as frying them in hot oil and much healthier.

Broad Guidelines On Food Choices

  • Fats: Reduce saturated and trans fat; Increase healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturate)

  • Eat more healthy fats like fish (especially fatty fish with omega 3 acids), nuts (raw or dry-roasted), good oils (olive, canola, sesame, grapeseed, avocado - avoid oils labelled "partially hydrogenated")

  • Carbs: Reduce refined, processed carbs; Increase wholegrain, unprocessed, high fibre, natural carbs

  • ​Eat more fibre-rich foods like fresh fruits, vegetables

  • Eat more wholegrains like whole wheat bread, oats and pasta. brown rice

  • Eat more low fat dairy

  • Eat more legumes like beans, peas, soyabeans, lentils

  • Eat less white, refined sugar and (in moderation) choose natural sweeteners like raw honey, real maple syrup, stevia

  • Avoid high sodium and processed foods

  • ​Eat low sodium alternatives to processed foods, like home-made soups instead of canned ones

  • Eat unsalted snacks like raw nuts instead of salted ones

  • Flavour foods with low sodium ingredient substitutes like low sodium stock, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, spices and herbs, lemons, limes

Stocking Up On The Right Staples For Heart-Healthy Food

I find that stocking up on the right staples in my pantry and refrigerator makes healthy meals easier to prepare, with the right ingredients on hand. Consider these as the building blocks of heart-healthy meals.

A Balanced Diet

I believe in a balanced diet - meaning a diet that combines all the necessary food types to maintain good health. All food groups, when eaten in the right proportion, play a part in optimising our body needs and in maintaining good health.

* The right proportion for our body's daily nutritional needs are as follows:

45% to 65% of calories to be taken from carbohydrates

20% to 35% from fat

10% to 35% from protein

* taken from www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk

For easy estimate, I would think of it as 1/2 plate vegetables, 1/4 plate whole grains or healthy starch, 1/4 plate protein. Don't worry if you can't follow these proportions in every meal. If viewed as a week long, these proportions can be balanced out.

#hearthealthy #lowsodium #lowsugar #balanceddiet

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