The food we eat has major impacts on our health, for good or bad. A pair of local experts are here to talk about important considerations for a heart healthy diet, and practical steps for successfully changing our diet. Healthy outputs include regular exercise and physical activity, while healthy inputs include the food we eat (limiting the amount of sugar and cholesterol) and choosing not to use tobacco.
In this Episode
Heart Healthy Eating is for Everyone
While medications and procedures can address heart issues, an ideal goal is to take care of our heart so that it doesn’t need outside help. That all starts with what goes into and out of our body.
A heart healthy body doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does a body with high risk for heart disease. It’s the result of consistent lifestyle choices and behaviors that reward or punish us down the road (but also in the short term).
Heart Health Risk Factors
- Blood Pressure
- Glucose Level
- Tobacco use
Some of these are factors that aren’t easily observable. We can test our blood pressure in one of those machines at the pharmacy once in a while, but to really stay on top of these issues it’s important to have a relationship with a doctor who can test and discuss these biometric numbers on a regular basis.
There’s good news though. Diet is a way we can affect each of the risks listed above (other than tobacco use).
Best Practices for Heart Healthy Diet
- The more produce the better
- The closer things look to the way they appear in nature
- Whole Grains
- Foods that do not come sealed in boxes or bags
- Making your own “processed” foods at home is generally better than
- Half of your plate should be vegetables at most meals
Red Flags to Heart Healthy Diet
- Trans Fats
- Hydrogenated Fats
- Added Sugars
A diet high in sugar (even the natural sugars found in things like fruit) can increase triglycerides, which a risk factor for heart disease.
Become a label reader. Know the nutritional strengths and weaknesses of the foods you love to eat. Think about the choices you can make to bring balance to the equation.
Stress and Life Challenges
Stressful times in life or transition periods can challenge our resolve and good habits. It’s easy to indulge, or skip out on healthy behaviors like exercise, but it’s important to be mindful about what we’re eating (the total amount and the quality/kinds of foods) and look for ways to set ourselves up for success.
Develop Heart Healthy Food Habits
- Meal planning (shop with a menu in mind and do a week’s worth of meal prep in one afternoon/evening)
- Keep healthy snack options handy
- Eat a healthy meal before going to parties or events so you’re less likely to fill up on indulgent treat food
- Brush your teeth early in the evening to remind yourself not to snack later in the evening
- Use a smaller plate to reinforce portion sizes (a small dessert looks bigger on a saucer than a dinner plate)
Don’t be intimidated
If you don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen start small. Find a simple recipe that incorporates healthy foods you want to try. If you love it, eat it once a week. That’s a great step in the right direction. Or branch out and try one experiment a week.
Embrace old favorite and seasonal delights
Find a couple go-to meals you can throw together in a pinch. Maybe even something you can make up and save in the freezer. But also look for seasonal foods or fun recipes to try.
Make it social
Make big batches of favorite foods and share them with your friends. If you’re lucky they’ll start returning the favor.
- Fair of the Heart
- Heart Age Assessment
- Heart Attack Risk Assessment
- Diabetes Risk Assessment
- Stroke Risk Scorecard
Author: LivingWell PDX Blog
Adventist Health is committed to creating a healthier Portland community.