A healthy heart diet is a hard lifestyle change to undertake, but one that is necessary if you care about yourself. The advantages to such a diet are numerous and substantial.
Not only do you increase the overall number of years you can reasonably expect to live, but you also get to enjoy better fitness and quality of life throughout all those years.
Healthy Heart Diet Guidelines
There are five central components to a healthy heart diet. The following subsections cover what you should know and the order you should know them in.
1) Portion control is the first thing you must learn and master when eating for health. The specific foods you choose are absolutely important, but first, you have to cut back on excess. Even if your plate is full of healthy foods, eating too much means your body has more than it needs.
This is stored as fat. If you can notice excess fat around your waist, then you can know there is excess inside your body as well, affecting your arteries and heart.
It can take time to find out the portions that work well for you. A good rule of thumb to start with is with your proteins or main entrees at your meals. A protein serving roughly the size of a deck of cards is usually enough for one meal.
Follow up eating that with fiber-rich grains and vegetables, and you’ll probably have satisfied your appetite and energy needs for a few hours.
2) Pick your proteins carefully. You want to aim for low-fat protein sources, also known as lean proteins. Protein is a macronutrient you can not skimp out on without compensating for it later with more eating. It’s not just for muscles either, as every cell in your body needs it, including your heart.
However, you don’t want to pack in too many calories with it. You also want to avoid saturated fats and oils. So, aim for proteins like fish, turkey, and chicken. Whenever possible, get them skinless, and never fried.
Even if you’re not vegetarian, consider vegetarian sources like soy, beans, legumes and nuts. Low-fat dairy sources are also good. You don’t have to give up the meats you love, but you can counterbalance them with vegetarian meals a few days a week.
3) Fill the rest of your plate with whole grains, and the right fruits and vegetables. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates full of fibers. These fibers are often indigestible by your body.
You might wonder why you would want to eat something you can’t actually digest. However, that indigestibility works in your favor because it keeps you full longer. It also helps gather up waste and toxins in your digestive system that you don’t want to be carrying around.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, aim for dark, leafy greens and any fruit that is high in vitamins. Aim whenever possible for fresh foods or frozen versions. Packaged, dried and canned options have extra sugar, preservatives and sodium you don’t need.
4) Learn how to eat more often. Even though your meals should be focused on being smaller and keeping you fuller, longer, you are going to be cutting back on the size of your individual meals. You might find that you were once eating heavily once or twice a day and now need to be eating more frequently.
Don’t be ashamed of this. Some individuals wind up eating five to six times a day to keep their energy levels stable and their stomachs full. This can prevent poor eating choices later out of hunger and give you more energy for the final step.
5) Exercise is a vital component of a diet focused on heart health. Exercise might not seem like it needs mentioning, since it is a complement to a diet and not actually part of a diet. However, no diet is effective without exercise.
It is said in weight loss, that it’s 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. In terms of cardiovascular health, it is still true that diet is more important than exercise. However, the diet will only go so far. Only cardio exercise can get your heart pumping and make it stronger.
Regular exercise boosts your heart rate temporarily, giving it a workout. However, over time it lowers your resting heart rate, meaning your heart works less per day and can work longer in a number of years. Your diet is not fully effective without this on top.
Now you know the five components of a healthy heart diet. Reduce your portions, choose your proteins with care, fill your remaining diet with plant-based foods, learn how to eat frequently enough and get some exercise. When you do these five, you add to your life both a higher number of years and a higher number of years that matter.