Heart Healthy Foods

by Natalie Kiser

The heart is the most important organ in our body; without it, we cannot survive. It pumps blood to all parts of your body and keeps you alive! But what if some food products that are consumed every day created a buildup on arteries leading to the heart? This can lead to plaque formation which blocks airflow as well as cause strokes or other unwanted conditions. If this sounds like something you want avoid at any cost, then make sure next time when looking for meals for tonight's dinner party try these healthy substitutes instead:

Fruit salad with mandarin oranges- opt for fresh fruit salads over sugary desserts which may contribute excess sugar towards high cholesterol levels and weight gain

Grilled salmon - grilled fish has less saturated fat than fried options

One of the best ways we can change up our diet is by restricting our use of solid fats like butter, bacon, and gravies. These are known as Saturated and Trans fats. We often use these fats to help prepare the food we cook. Some great low-fat alternatives are olive oil, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Try to also be label-conscious and read the contents. Look for ingredients like polyunsaturated fats – found in nuts and seeds – and monounsaturated fats – found in canola and olive oil. Be wary of the boxes labeled “reduced fat” though as they often still contain the bad fats.

Something else we can do is to choose meats that are lower in fat. Fish is always a healthy choice and most even contain the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids our bodies need. These omega-3 fatty acids can actually reduce our levels of triglycerides. Lean cuts of pork, beef, chicken breast and turkey are also great choices. Beans and other legumes are a wonderful meat alternative, while still providing our bodies with needed protein. Soy and tofu have become popular in recent years also adding to the meat alternatives list.

The largest dietary change we can make is adding more fruits and vegetables. Many Americans do not even eat half of the servings the food guide recommends as it is not convenient. Fruits and vegetables are chock full of vitamins and minerals, the things we need each and every day. Soluble fiber is often found in fruits and vegetables and is an excellent source for reducing our cholesterol levels. Fruits and vegetables have also been proven to help reduce heart disease. By snacking on these tasty treats, we are less likely to snack on something higher in fat. It is easy to keep fruits and vegetables in the fridge ready for snacking as most just need a quick rinse in water and we can munch away. Sometimes even keeping vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower already cut up in the fridge or a bowl of fruit on the counter makes it easier for us to grab and go if we are in a rush.

It sounds like a good idea to swap out white bread and pasta for 100% whole wheat at least once in awhile. Not only will you help your heart, but it also helps the environment! Did you know that there's less packaging involved when we buy unprocessed grains? That means fewer trees cut down just so they can package our food up again with all of those pesky chemicals inside which could be messing with us - not to mention how much plastic gets thrown away too! So instead of eating more processed foods (which are bad enough on their own), try switching them out every now and then by choosing fresher options; such as whole grain varieties or even better yet- organic versions.

By adding more of these foods to our diets on a daily basis, not only are we reducing our risk of heart disease, but an added side effect is weight loss!