10 Foods for a Heart-Healthy Cardiac Diet—and 6 Foods to Avoid
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. While you can’t always prevent heart disease, taking steps like quitting smoking and getting plenty of exercise can go a long way to warding off problems. One of the best ways to prevent heart disease or improve your outcomes after diagnosis is to commit to a heart-health cardiac diet.
Go All In on the Mediterranean Rainbow
Eating a Mediterranean-style diet can improve heart health. High in fiber and fresh foods, and low in unhealthy fats, this type of cardiac diet can help lower your cholesterol and improve your blood sugar. Aim for a plate half full of vegetables and fruit, with one quarter whole grains and one quarter protein. Stock your pantry and fridge with items like:
- Beans, and if buying canned, look for low-sodium options
- Fish, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Fresh, frozen or canned fruit with no added sugar
- Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables with no added sodium
- Lean meats, like poultry
- Low-fat dairy like yogurt or cottage cheese
- Olive oil
- Unsalted nuts
- Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, farro and oats
When aiming for the recommended seven-plus daily servings of fruits and vegetables, remember to vary the types you eat. One of the easiest ways to do this is to “eat the rainbow.” The colors of fruits and vegetables aren’t just for show—they also have different heart-healthy properties. Red vegetables like tomatoes are high in lycopene. Leafy green vegetables like kale are high in lutein. Orange and yellow vegetables like carrots and peppers are high in carotenoids. Blue and purple fruits like plums are high in anthocyanins. And white and tan vegetables like cauliflower are high in allicin.
While juicing some of your fruits and vegetables is fine, remember that you are losing important fiber that way. Also, be careful when buying fruit juices, as many are high in natural sugars or even have added sugar.
Avoid These Foods and Beverages
- An occasional glass of wine probably won’t hurt you, but even moderate alcohol use can increase your risk of cancer, and heavy alcohol use raises the risk of heart disease.
- Red and processed meats. Except on the rare special occasion, skip these types of meats, as they increase your risk of heart disease.
- Salty foods. Less sodium can help lower your blood pressure.
- Sugary food. Not only do foods (and drinks like soda) high in sugar increase your risk of heart disease, they can also raise the risk of diabetes.
- Trans and saturated fats. Foods high in these fats are bad for your heart. You should also limit cooking with coconut and palm oils, as well as butter or margarine.
- White breads. Also known as refined carbohydrates, skip white bread, crackers and pasta.
Need more advice on your heart-healthy cardiac diet, or how to change your eating habits after a cardiac event? Talk to the cardiovascular specialists at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic.
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