A healthy diet is one of the best ways to combat heart disease. And including healthier choices in your diet isn’t hard, since there are lots of delicious heart-healthy foods available, including whole grain breads, fruit, vegetables, fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and even chocolate. There are also some things you should avoid—or avoid too much of. Below are 10 tips to help you get on the path to a more heart-healthy diet.
Eat Fish Regularly
Omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA) that are found naturally in fish can provide numerous cardiovascular benefits, including reducing blood triglycerides, reducing blood clotting and regulating heart rhythms.
Include Lycopene-Rich Foods in Your Diet
Lycopene is a plant nutrient that has been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease. There is lots of lycopene in tomato products (particularly cooked ones), pink grapefruit and watermelon.
Eat the Right Kinds of Fat
Aim for a balance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Research indicates that both types have benefits, including reducing the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. Try choosing extra virgin olive oil or canola oil instead of butter or margarine, and natural peanut butter rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Also, almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts are good sources of healthy fat and make for easy snacks.
Eat Plenty of Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
In general, richly colored fruits and vegetables contain lots of helpful plant nutrients, and many have been shown to help protect against heart disease, among other health conditions.
Include Plenty of Fiber in Your Diet
A diet high in both soluble and insoluble fiber can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber, in particular, helps lower cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, oat bran, fruits (such as apples, pears, citrus fruits and berries), vegetables, (like carrots, cabbage and sweet potatoes) and legumes. Insoluble fiber is found in grain products like whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas.
Eat Chocolate—in Moderation
Milk chocolate, dark chocolate and bittersweet chocolate all contain a unique kind of saturated fat — stearic acid — that doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels, and dark chocolate is also a good source of substances called antioxidants that are helpful in combating heart disease and other health problems. But chocolate also contains added sugars and caffeine , which should be consumed in limited portions (see below), so don’t eat too much.