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The Heart Healthy Diet Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Heart Healthy Diet Plan

Introduction for Heart Healthy Diet Plan

A heart-healthy diet can help reduce or eliminate a person’s risk factors for heart disease. Limiting sugar, salt and saturated fat intakes can improve cardiovascular health.

Avoid fried foods and sauces that contain high amounts of salt. Use spices or a sodium-free seasoning blend to add flavor to meals. Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Include protein sources of monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in your meal plans, such as nuts, avocados and fish.

1. Eat a Balanced Diet

A heart-healthy diet plan is one that includes a variety of foods that provide the nutrients your body needs. It also limits foods that can increase your risk of heart disease.

This includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein (including plant-based proteins), whole grains, healthy fats and herbs and spices that add flavor without extra salt. You should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day.

It is important to limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and added sugars. Aim to eat less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat. You can do this by choosing the leanest cuts of meat and replacing butter, margarine and shortening with unsaturated fats like olive oil and vegetable oils, and by using low-sugar spreads.

You should also eat two servings of fish each week, particularly cold-water fish such as salmon and trout. Try to eat fish that are low in mercury. And finally, you should eat beans and lentils, nuts and seeds. These are high in protein, but not as high in saturated fat or trans fat.

2. Exercise Regularly

People who eat a heart-healthy diet are usually encouraged to avoid foods high in sodium (salt) and saturated fat. They should also aim for regular exercise.

Studies have shown that a regular amount of physical activity significantly lowers the risk for some long-term conditions and is associated with a reduced risk of premature death. It is also important to include at least some muscle-strengthening exercise on 2 days a week.

To reduce salt in the diet, cook foods at home and select low-sodium options when shopping. Choose lean meats, fish and poultry, and avoid high-fat dairy products. Opt for olive, canola or vegetable oils and use them to sauté, roast, bake or stir-fry foods.

You don’t need to be a fitness buff to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Even a short period of aerobic exercise a few times a week is enough to boost energy and improve mood. In fact, research has shown that you can get a health benefit from even as little as 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, on five days a week.

3. Manage Stress

Stress is a normal part of life, but too much can make you sick. You can manage it by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and practicing other simple lifestyle habits.

You can reduce your stress levels by identifying the things that cause you anxiety, such as work, relationships, money or health problems. You can also learn to relax with techniques like deep breathing, meditation or yoga.

Exercise, even just a 20-minute walk, helps calm the nervous system and lower blood pressure. You can also try taking up a hobby or spending time with friends. Laughing and talking to others helps relieve stress by releasing hormones. If you have trouble finding ways to cope with your stress, a counselor or therapist can help.

Finally, avoid substances like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, which can have negative health effects in the long term. If you feel that you are carrying a lot of burdens at home or at work, consider asking for help. You can also learn to say no and set boundaries with those around you.

4. Manage Your Blood Pressure

A diet low in salt, fat and added sugar is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Diets that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like olive oil can support a healthy cardiovascular system.

A heart-healthy eating pattern is naturally low in saturated fat (found mainly in meat and dairy products) and high in fibre, potassium and healthy plant-based proteins. Choose lean meats and poultry, limit red meat to one or two servings a week, and replace these with fish, beans, soy-based products (such as tofu and tempeh) and nuts and seeds.

When choosing dairy, opt for reduced-fat options such as yoghurt and milk. When frying foods, use nontropical oils such as olive or canola oil. Limit added salt and sugar, especially in processed foods, and flavour your meals with herbs and spices instead. Check food labels and choose those labelled ‘low salt’,’salt-reduced’ or ‘no added salt’. Avoid adding salt at the table, and try to consume less than 2 teaspoons of salt a day. See your doctor if your blood pressure remains too high after making these changes.

5. Manage Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in your blood that may increase your risk of heart disease. It is important to keep cholesterol levels in the healthy range by following a heart-healthy eating pattern, low in saturated fat and salt, and high in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Eating a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help you lower your cholesterol and manage your weight. Limiting alcohol, smoking and processed meats can also improve your heart health.

Limiting the amount of salt (sodium) you eat is an easy way to control your sodium intake. Try to eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, which is about 1 teaspoon of salt. Choose low-salt or no-sodium salt when cooking and add flavour to your meals with herbs, spices and fresh vegetables.

Conclusion

Increase your intake of viscous (soluble) fibre, which can help lower your LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol by binding it and flushing it out of your body through your urine. Good sources of soluble fibre include Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips, apricots, oranges, legumes, barley and oat bran.

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