A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Heart-healthy foods: What should I eat?

Hearty-healthy foods

To better your odds of having a long, heart-healthy life, eat the right foods.

To better your odds of having a long, heart-healthy life, eat the right foods.

Having healthy foods in your pantry and refrigerator makes it much easier to stay focused on eating right, said Marshfield Clinic Health System Dietitian Chrisanne Urban. “So many of us know what foods to eat and, for some of us, what do we do about that? We don’t choose ‘healthy.’ That’s what’s got to change – the human element.

“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. with cardiovascular disease, strokes and heart attacks. We know for certain diet and exercise play a role in heart disease. It’s clear. So how do you get started on the way to better heart health?”

It’s how you prepare foods, she said. “So reader take warning. You need to be combining healthy prepping with a good diet. You can’t have baked fish and then a hot fudge sundae all the time.”

A minimum of five cups of fruits and veggies each day is important in heart health and Urban suggests the following to add to your grocery list for the next time you’re at the store:

  • Fish – those that are high in omega 3-fatty acids like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout. The American Heart Association suggests two servings of fish a week. Again, choose a healthy method of cooking.
  • Nuts – almonds and walnuts are high in mono-unsaturated fats, or healthy fats, but ¼ cup of nuts is 200 calories. Urban suggests people diagnosed with cancer eat nuts since 1 cup is about 800 calories. They’re high in fiber and can help people who struggle to gain weight.
  • Oats – oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, which acts like a digestive sponge to soak up cholesterol so you excrete it rather than carry it in your blood. Don’t use oatmeal packets, though, since they contain higher amounts of sugar. Use old-fashioned, quick-cooking or steel-cut oats instead.
  • Berries – all berries, like blueberries and strawberries, are high in antioxidants that help decrease blood pressure. “We’re going for color. How colorful is your diet?” Urban asked.
  • Beans and legumes – they’re high in fiber, a good protein alternative without unhealthy fat.
  • Tomatoes – they are very high in potassium and antioxidants “and we’re thinking color again.”
  • Dark leafy greens.
  • Avocados – these add great heart-healthy fats to a diet but watch the guacamole ingredients.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – substitute EVOO for butter, since olive oil is the “Mediterranean butter.” This oil contains the healthier mono-unsaturated fat. It has a distinct flavor, though, so it might not be right for all your cooking. It’s best, she said, in salads, and for dipping breads and veggies.
  • Garlic and onions – these are said to reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Dairy – it’s great for calcium but choose low- or no-fat options.

Condiments can help spice up foods, suggested Urban, but consider salt content before slathering them on your dinner. Say “no,” too, as much as you can to sugar – even just to avoid its extra calories.

These foods can help stave off heart disease, but “all things in moderation,” Urban said. “We’re individuals and need to learn what we individually can tolerate. Too much of a good thing is still too much.”

Talk to you doctor about ways you can make your food choices and diet more heart healthy. And to make an appointment with your doctor, click on this link.

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