Two Steps to a Healthier Heart
Last updated: March 2022
Heart disease is a serious risk to our health and taking steps to be sure you are taking good care of your heart is a must! Having diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease, which is even more reason to take extra care. So what steps can you take to be sure you are keeping your heart in tip-top shape?
Step 1 to a healthy heart: Make healthy diet choices
Here are a few heart-healthy diet changes to focus on:
Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. So what does it mean to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables? Set a goal of having fruit and/or vegetables with each meal. Varying your intake can also help you obtain the variety of nutrients found in produce. Try shopping seasonal crops to keep costs down, and buy only as much as you will consume so as not to let it go to waste.
Decrease your salt intake
Of course the easiest way to decrease your salt intake is to stop adding it to foods at the table. Often, people will salt their food without even tasting it first, out of pure habit. Make sure that you are mindful of how much salt you are adding while cooking, and try to use plenty of other herbs and spices to add flavor. People often complain that food tastes bland without salt at first, but eventually the taste buds adjust and new herbs and spices offer flavor intensity that helps the salt not be missed.
Another way to decrease salt intake is to avoid processed and canned foods. Many shelf-stable foods have added foods to preserve them for long periods of time. If you do need to consume canned foods, try rinsing them before consuming them. For example, rinsing canned black beans can decrease the sodium by 40%! Also try shopping for “low sodium” or “low salt’ options to decrease the amount of sodium you consume.
Be aware of your fat intake
There was a time when a low-fat diet was all the rage. Now we know about healthy fats versus unhealthy fats. Healthy fats are found in foods such as salmon, nuts, and olive oil. Unhealthy fats or saturated fats, are found in animal fat and even coconut oil. A good rule of thumb is to limit or avoid fats that are solid at room temperature (ie. butter, coconut oil, and steak fat) to decrease your saturated fat intake.
Step 2 to a healthy heart: Exercise more
We hear about the benefits of exercise all the time. From increased mood, and weight loss, to better sleep and blood sugar control, making time for exercise every day can also improve heart health. It can be difficult to keep up with an exercise regimen, especially if it has been a while since you worked out. But everyone starts out somewhere. Try setting small goals that are not too difficult to reach and keep you motivated. Once you reach those goals, try rewarding yourself with a non-food item such as a movie date or shopping trip.
Making small changes for a healthier heart is so worth it! What are you willing to change?
Do you chew your food slowly or quickly?
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