The best way to get started is to become educated. Start by reading food labels. To keep your arteries clean, you must keep track of the cholesterol content of the foods you eat. Additionally, be on the lookout for sodium content. Keep it to a minimum to keep your blood pressure under control. Choose plenty of foods that do not come with nutrition labels, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. For the most part, they are low in fat and sodium and they contain fiber, which can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Keep in mind that canned fruits and vegetables have almost no nutritional value. The nutrients are leached out into the water or syrup and they are loaded with sodium and sugar to preserve freshness. If you can’t get fresh produce, the next best option is frozen.
To make the best food selection, become an educated consumer. First things first, head to your doctor if you don’t know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Having high blood pressure or too much LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and too low HDL cholesterol (the good kind) in your blood can put you at risk for heart disease.
Boost your heart health by making changes to your menu. Most people think they are getting enough vitamins and minerals by popping a multivitamin thinking it will help cover their nutrition shortfalls, but that is a far cry from getting the nutrients from the actual food sources that provide hundreds of other healthy compounds that help you achieve and maintain optimal health. Did you know that 97% of people are not getting enough potassium, a key nutrient in regulating and maintaining a healthy blood pressure? Why pop a pill when it is easily found in citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bananas, lima beans, potatoes and spinach?
A study published in August 2015 found that people who eat spicy foods nearly every day are less likely to have cancer and heart and respiratory diseases than those who do not eat spicy foods regularly. The spicy food used in the study was fresh and dried chili peppers. The peppers have capsaicin as well as many more active ingredients that have been found in other studies to have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and anticancer properties. So when you are looking to spruce up your menu and make it more heart friendly, do not forget to add some hot peppers to your meal! They can easily be added to soups, stews, meats, salad dressing, marinades and pastas.
New studies have found that tart cherries have similar effects on reducing the risk of heart disease when eaten alone or eaten while taking medication to improve cardiovascular health. Researchers think that the antioxidant anthocyanin, the compound that gives the fruit its deep red color, has a positive effect on heart health. There was a lowering of blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke. When trying to take charge and improve your heart health, do not only look at what foods to cut out, but what foods to enjoy in greater quantities.
Homocysteine is an amino acid produced in the blood during metabolism. Too much homocysteine can result in damage to blood vessels and may be a factor responsible in the development of heart disease. People with elevated homocysteine have a greater risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Studies found that folic acid and vitamin B6 and B12 may help reduce blood homocysteine levels. Other researchers found that high levels of niacin have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but being overweight is a big risk factor for fatal heart attacks, even among people who do not have diabetes and high blood pressure. Inflammation is a strong factor in heart disease risk, and obesity is an inflammatory condition. You cannot change your genetics, but you can make several lifestyle changes to help you lose weight and improve your heart health.
Today is the day to set for yourself the goal of being a healthy role model for your family. Eating fruits and vegetables, and preparing them in an easy-to-reach and attractive manner will ensure that your family will choose that over less healthy options, and more importantly, they will enjoy eating them. Trying to get your children to eat nutritious foods is important, but showing them that you practice what you preach is a much more effective lesson. If you offer nutritious foods regularly, while they see that you too enjoy them, they will be much more likely to try them and will hopefully learn to enjoy healthy eating too.
Shani Goldner is a Registered Dietitian and a CDN with a Master’s of Science. She runs a private nutrition practice where she counsels children, adolescents and adults in weight loss, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular health and cancer related nutrition. She has a practice in Brooklyn and Long Island. She can be reached at (718) 854-5784 or (516) 239-3784. Phone consults are available. For more information please visit her website at www.mynydiet.com.