A healthy lifestyle that helps promote good heart health and cardiovascular function includes a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, fiber, whole grains and low-fat dairy products as well as low-fat sources of protein.
We have all seen the “Heart Smart” symbol on packages. Just 25g of soy protein as part of a diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol reduces your risk for heart disease. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. It is an organic compound of 22 amino acids. Protein is stored in muscles and organs. The body utilizes protein to build and repair tissues as well as for the production of enzymes and hormones. Protein makes it possible for the blood to carry oxygen throughout the body. Protein is considered to be a “macronutrient,” meaning the body needs relatively large amounts of it. The Institute of Medicine of the national academy of Sciences has concluded that our daily protein requirements should be 10 percent to 35 percent of our total caloric intake, with men needing slightly more than women. A lack of protein can cause a loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, as well as a weakening of the heart and respiratory system.
When getting started on a heart healthy diet it is important to learn how to read labels. Be careful. Everyone seems to be trying to lure people to buy certain products by tagging it with a label like “low-fat” or something. This doesn’t mean it is heart healthy or a good choice. The product may be low in one thing but high in something else like sugar or sodium. When reading a label be sure to look at the serving size. You may see that a product only has 2 grams of saturated fat but when you look at the serving size that 2 grams is based on a serving size of 1 ounce and it is a 20 ounce package. The 2 grams of saturated fat just became 40 grams. You will also want to look at the amount of sodium, the number of calories, the amount of sugar, the nutritional content, etc.
How much sodium should you have? It is recommended for your heart health to keep your daily sodium intake below 2000 mg.Taking in too much sodium can increase your blood pressure. High blood pressure is not good for your heart and can lead to kidney disease as well as heart disease.
Why should you watch the calories? Being as little as 10 lbs. overweight increases your risk for heart disease so be sure to control your calorie intake. Extra weight makes your heart work harder so maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health. When on a calorie controlled diet your calorie intake should never be below 1200. To lose weight all you need to do is reduce the amount of calories you burn daily by 200 calories and adjust your caloric intake to reflect this number.
Protein is not the only thing we need for good heart health. We need a complete balance of vitamins and minerals. Getting all the vitamins and nutrients we need is impossible with diet alone and it can be frustrating. Too many calories, too much sugar, too much sodium etc. Stick it out. It is important to your good health and it gets easier. There are many foods to choose from and you will eventually be able to develop meals and heart healthy diet snacks that are not only heart healthy but that you like. You will get the most nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables an d meats so try to stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store. Whole grains are also important. Get as many nutrients as you can from fresh foods. Supplement the rest with a good nutritional program that provides cellular nutrition. Cellular nutrition provides the right balance of vitamins and minerals at optimal levels to ensure your body is getting all the nutrition it needs at the cellular level.
Here are some ingredients to help you develop a heart healthy diet. I have included in the ingredient list the foods that you may find these ingredients in, plus the benefits these ingredients have for your heart health and cardiovascular system. Use this list to determine what heart healthy foods will be beneficial to you. If you are already consuming these foods and have had blood tests that suggests elevated cholesterol, blood pressure or other heart disease related scores you may need to be taking in these ingredients at more optimal levels or include some supplements in your heart healthy diet to get your numbers at a healthier level. However, it is important to discuss any supplements you take with your doctor if you are on medication for anything.