You Are What You Eat - Four Tips to Improve Heart Health Through Diet
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in North America; this is because most consume the SAD diet (Standard American Diet). Which mainly consists of refined carbs and sugars, too much meat, too much fried food and not enough healthy fats, leafy greens and fibrous fruits and vegetables. When we eat the way nature intended, we lower our risk of developing many chronic and degenerative illnesses, including heart disease. So, here are four tips to keep that ticker ticking.
Four Tips To Improve Heart Health Through Diet
1. INCREASE FIBRE
Fibre plays an important role when it comes to heart health. It protects the arteries by binding to cholesterol and carrying it out of the body. The soluble fibre found in vegetables, fruits and legumes is found to be the most effective at lowering cholesterol levels.
Fibre Rich Foods
- Whole Grains
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Leafy Greens
2. INCREASE HEALTHY FATS - REDUCE BAD FATS
Not all fats are bad. In fact, good fats are extremely beneficial to not only heart health but also brain, skin and joint health. All fats, including saturated, are needed for many metabolic functions, including maintaining cellular structures, acting as precursors to hormones, transporting fats as well as regulating many other metabolic functions. However, most people get too much saturated fat from meats and dairy, which can be detrimental to health. Trans fats and fats from rancid oils are also not favourable to our health. Too much Omega-6 can also lead to increased inflammation. It really is all about balance!
Good Fat Sources
- Nuts & Seeds
- Avocado & Avocado Oil
- Olives & Olive Oil
- Hemp Seeds & Hemp Oil
- Chia Seeds
- Coconut Oil
- Eggs (pastured raised is always best)
- Fish (limit due to potentially high mercury and plastic)
*The best oils to cook with are coconut, olive and avocado as they are the most stable, meaning they can tolerate higher heat without getting damaged. Avoid using nut and seed oils for cooking and baking as they are easily damaged when exposed to heat and light. Also, remember fats transport toxins, so make sure to buy organic whenever possible and never buy oils in plastic or clear bottles.
3. EAT MORE VEGETABLES & FRUITS
Fruits and veggies help to keep the heart healthy for many reasons. They are high in fibre (which, as we know, helps carry cholesterol out of the body). They are also high in vitamins and minerals (like potassium, which is a vital nutrient to keep the heart pumping), and they are high in antioxidants that fight free radicals, helping to prevent oxidative damage to the arteries. The brighter or darker the colour, the more antioxidants a fruit or vegetable will contain, and there are many different kinds of antioxidants that make up their wide variety of colours. So, make sure to eat a rainbow of natural foods!
High Antioxidant Foods
- Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach, Kale, Chard, Beet Leaves)
- Sweet Potato
- Citrus Rind
- Purple Cabbage
4. REDUCE REFINED SUGARS & CARBS
Refined sugars and carbs quickly spike the blood sugar, which triggers the hormone, insulin. A diet high in refined carbs and sugars - white bread, white rice, white sugar, brown sugar (quite different than raw cane sugar), corn syrup, etc. causes significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Increased insulin levels are associated with increased cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, which are precursors to heart disease.
Good Carbs & Sugars
- Fruit (within limitation, too much fructose can bung up the liver)
I know from experience, changing your diet is no easy feat, and sometimes it does more damage than good to be too rigid with your restrictions. The 80:20 rule is a good one to live by; it's pretty simple, strive for a diet that consists of eighty percent healthy whole foods, leaving twenty percent for much-deserved indulgences.