SALT LAKE CITY – More than 600,000 Americans die of heart disease each year – accounting for one in four deaths – making them the leading cause of death in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Regardless of age, lifestyle or family and medical history, taking up healthier lifestyles is certainly a step in the right direction. Healthy does not have to be difficult or annoying. If you choose nutritious foods that taste good and find the physical activities you like, you can create healthy habits that work for you. Small changes can add up and have long-term effects on your health.
While you've heard the recommendations not to smoke, to exercise 30 minutes physically for several days a week and to cope with health conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, diet also plays a big role in your long-term health ̵
The Food Policy for Americans 2015-2020 recommends that Americans consume less than 2300 mg of sodium per day as part of a healthy meal. Excess sodium is associated with high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.
Although our body needs sodium for a variety of processes, too much of processed foods, restaurant meals, and even home can raise blood pressure. Instead of seasoning your food with salt, consider using herbs and spices as an alternative to give your food flavor and variety. Many even act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
From garlic, basil and rosemary to cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, there are many herbs and spices that give you the spice you need to satisfy your palate.  Fat has long been criticized in the American diet. This is because trans fats and too much saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease and raise cholesterol.
Not all fats are bad. Unsaturated fats found in a variety of foods such as olive oil, avocados, linseeds, walnuts, and fish can reduce the risk of heart disease if eaten in moderation.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and have shown that this is possible to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. They are considered to be essential fatty acids, which means our bodies can not make them, and we have to get them out of our diet. Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (especially fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and albacore tuna). The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish every week. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed and walnuts.
The choice of lean protein options is a very smart choice as they contain less saturated fats. Poultry and fish without skin as well as eggs, beans, lentils and nuts are an excellent choice for lean protein. If you choose red meat, you should look for leaner cuts such as round, sirloin or sirloin steak and roast.
Boil your protein at home in a healthy way without the addition of saturated and trans fat. For example, try not to deep-fry your chicken, but to bake or fry it. Removing visible fat before cooking and draining fat after cooking may also be helpful. You can even go one step further and go meat-free one day a week.
Most people will not claim that fruits and vegetables are good for you. However, the recommendation to include more plants in your diet does not just cover fruits and vegetables. Nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains are also valid here. Plant foods are a good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
In addition to keeping your heart healthy, nutrients in plants can help maintain many functions in your body, such as: As cell formation, the transport of oxygen through the blood and thyroid regulation and keep your immune system healthy. In particular, dietary fiber can improve cholesterol levels while reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
During mealtimes, filling half a plate with fruits and vegetables is a good starting point. Then choose a whole grain that you want to add to your meal. It does not have to be the same boring thing at every meal. You can mix it and select a variety of plant foods that you can include in your diet daily.
Just as fats were shunned in the 1990s, sugar is now the food we demonize in our diet. But like fats, not all sugars are the same. There are natural sugars and added sugars. Natural sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose). Sugar additives are sugars and syrups that are added to foods during preparation – whether in the factory or at home.
Natural sugar is often found in foods with beneficial nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Added sugars do not provide nutritional benefits to your diet and add extra calories that can lead to weight gain, which can worsen heart health. The sugars include, but are not limited to, white sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup and maple syrup.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugar in our diet to about 6 teaspoons a day for women and about 9 teaspoons a day for men. Although you should limit the amount of added sugars, you do not have to get rid of them completely. Small amounts of sugar can be used to supplement nutrient-rich foods such as oatmeal or Greek yogurt and to improve the taste. These small amounts of whole foods are healthier than eating low-nutrient, high-sweetened foods.
By planning meals and cooking at home, you can make your kitchen heartfelt. Choosing a generally healthy diet that focuses on a variety of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats is a sure way to eat a healthier heart.
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