In last week’s blog we talked about the importance of getting active for a healthy heart. Today we’ll focus on the dynamic duo of eating healthy and losing weight.
Making healthy choices in our diet is one of the best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease, feeling good and staying healthy.
What is a heart-healthy diet?
• Foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars
• Foods high in whole grain fiber and lean protein
• Colorful fruits and vegetables
How does eating better affect my health?
Our bodies use healthy foods as fuel use to create new cells and the energy we need to thrive and fight diseases. Frequently skipping out on veggies, fruit, low-fat dairy, fiber-rich whole grains, and lean meats including fish, means our bodies are missing out on the basic building blocks for a healthy life. And poor eating habits put us at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
What can I do to eat better?
Nutritious eating requires prior planning, but the heart-healthy, feel-good results are well worth the extra effort!
Stock your kitchen with healthy food
The American Heart Association recommends eating a wide variety of nutritious foods daily from each of the basic food groups. To get the nutrients you need, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich whole-grain breads and cereals and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
Eat fruits and vegetables
They’re high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in calories. Eating a variety of deeply colored fruits and vegetables may help control weight and blood pressure.
Eat unrefined, fiber-rich, whole-grain foods
A fiber-rich diet can help promote weight loss because fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer so you eat less. It can also help lower blood cholesterol.
Eat fish at least twice a week
Recent research shows that eating two 3.5 oz servings of oily fish per week containing omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout, and herring) may help lower risk of death from coronary artery disease.
Cut back on saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and added sugars
Cut down on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Aim to eat fewer than 300 milligrams of cholesterol and 1500 milligrams of sodium per day.
Track what you eat!
Using journals, websites or smartphone apps will help you see where you need to improve your culinary choices.
Why is losing weight important for my health?
Excess weight puts a strain on the entire body. Shedding extra fat and unnecessary pounds reduces the burden on the heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. It also reduces blood pressure – losing even five or 10 pounds can dramatically lower blood pressure – and generally makes people feel better!
If you have too much fat — especially at waist-level — you’re at higher risk for health problems like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. And you’re not alone! More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight, with one-third in the obese category. Obesity is a major independent risk factor for heart disease.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
BMI assesses body weight relative to height. It’s a useful, indirect measure of body composition because it correlates highly with body fat in most people. If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, you are at significant risk for heart health problems. Aim for a BMI of 25.0 or less. Calculate your BMI now.
What can I do to lose weight?
Weight loss occurs when calories out are greater than calories in – simple as that!
Know your calorie needs
When planning for weight loss, it’s crucial to understand your recommended calorie intake based on your age, sex and physical activity level.
Track your calories
Record the food calories you’re consuming each day – you’ll be more aware of the foods you choose and you’ll learn a lot about your habits.