Could your diet use a heart-healthy makeover? NCH Wellness Center members are entitled to a complimentary consultation with a nutritionist. Click here to learn more.
The body's relationship with food can be one of friendship or one of conflict—especially when it comes to our health. Making the right choices at the dinner table can help you improve your cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight—both of which translate to a healthier heart.
A heart-friendly diet should include a variety of foods, including whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts and legumes, and lean meats, as well as fatty fish at least twice a week. Oils, especially those with high levels of monounsaturated fat, such as olive, canola, peanut and high-oleic sunflower, also are a smart addition to your diet. Studies have shown that a glass of red wine with dinner may also prove beneficial in reducing heart-disease risk. Red wine contains flavonoids, which may help protect artery walls from heart disease and stroke, as well as lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate, green tea and red grapes also contain significant amounts of these beneficial compounds.
Saturated fat, found in high-fat dairy and meat products, raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood lipids more than other types of fat. Limit these types of foods in your diet. Trans fat, found in margarine and many processed foods (look for the words "hydrogenated" and "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredients list), should also be limited. Trans fat raises LDL cholesterol while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol—a dangerous combination.
Making heart-smart decisions at restaurants can be tricky. The next time you dine out, steer clear of unhealthy items and replace them with heart-healthy substitutes.
Instead of: Cream- and cheese-based soups
Try: Broth-based soups, such as minestrone
Instead of: White bread with butter
Try: Whole-wheat bread dipped in olive oil
Instead of: Pasta with cream, cheese or meat sauce
Try: Pasta with marinara sauce and grilled chicken
Instead of: Steak with mashed potatoes and deep-fried onions
Try: Broiled fish with steamed vegetables
Instead of: Crème brûlée with berries
Try: Fresh seasonal berries with a dollop of nonfat whipped cream