What you eat influences the health of your heart. While some foods can increase your risk of heart disease, there are others that can be part of a healthy diet that can help reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Heart healthy diet
1. Eat more vegetables and fruits
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Five servings a day of fruits and vegetables (about two and a half cups) appear to slightly lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. But increase consumption to 10 servings a day, and can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by 28% and your risk of premature death by 31%, according to a scientific review shared by Harvard Health.
Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories but rich in healthy nutrients and fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and improve blood vessel function.
Mayo Clinic suggests limiting coconut, vegetables with creamy sauces, fried or breaded vegetables, fruit canned in syrup, and frozen fruit with added sugar. He suggests consuming fresh, frozen or canned fruits, vegetables, low in sodium and without added sugar.
2. Whole grains
Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber. The American Heart Association notes that dietary fiber can help you improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and even type 2 diabetes.
Whole grains also provide vitamins and minerals that support body functions. Whole grains include: amaranth, oats, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, kramut, millet, quinoa, rye, sorghum, spelled, teff, triticale, wheat grains, and wild rice. Avoid refined grains.
3. Limit unhealthy fats
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Limiting saturated and trans fats helps lower blood cholesterol and lower the risk of coronary artery disease. Mayo Clinic explains that a high level of cholesterol in the blood can cause plaque to build up in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Foods that contain trans fats are found primarily in processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oil trans fats. Foods that contain large amounts of saturated fat include red meat, butter, cheese, ice cream, as well as coconut oil and palm oil.
Instead, healthy fats are necessary and beneficial for health. Some foods with healthy fats are fatty fish, avocado, seeds, nuts, and peanuts, as well as olive oil.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises consuming a variety of fish at least twice a week, especially fatty fish, which are a source of omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, sardines, trout, and herring).
5. Low-fat protein
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While fatty fish is a source of beneficial fats for heart health such as omega-3s. As for other sources of animal protein, we suggest lean meat, options with less fat such as skinless chicken and avoid frying it. As for milk, choose skim over whole milk. Eggs are highly nutritious and good sources of protein.
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Beans and other legumes are highly nutritious and healthy. Source of protein, rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and also contain phytochemicals that fight the effects of free radicals. They are low in fat, sodium, and have a low glycemic index.
The fiber in beans can help lower blood cholesterol even without weight changes and can prevent spikes in blood sugar, both risk factors for cardiovascular disease, notes the Harvard School of Public Health.
The World Health Organization notes that quitting tobacco use, reducing salt intake in the diet, consuming fruits and vegetables, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding harmful alcohol use have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. Reduce sodium intake
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Salt contains sodium, and sodium can cause high blood pressure. a risk factor for heart disease. The AHA notes that the largest amount of sodium we consume (over 70%) comes from processed and restaurant foods.
It recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for those with high blood pressure. One teaspoon of salt equals 2,300 mg of sodium.
The foods with the most sodium according to the AHA are: breads and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and sausages, canned soups, burritos and tacos.
6. Reduce the consumption of drinks and foods with added sugars
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Added sugars provide zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, which reduces heart health.
The AHA recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you eat to no more than 100 calories per day or about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 150 calories per day or about 9 teaspoons for men.
Sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet. Always check food labels, sometimes they hide the sugar content under other names.
7. Limit alcohol
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If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Even low alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
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