Keeping your heart healthy is a vital aspect of living a long and happy life. Not everyone understands how much attention must be paid in order to achieve this goal, however – it is not something that happens effortlessly. On the contrary, heart problems like heart disease are pervasive around the world, with heart disease serving as the leading cause of death across the globe.
Why is healthy eating important?
The phrase “the body is a machine” is more accurate than many believe. Just like a machine, your body needs fuel to run properly. Without it, it begins to break down and, eventually, ceases to function entirely. The food you eat is your body’s fuel, and the last thing you want to do is opt for the cheap option. Balanced eating habits are critical for a healthy heart that keeps your body operating smoothly. Notably, a nutritious diet full of leafy green vegetables and low in animal products can maintain heart health and avoid serious problems like heart disease.
How can I eat better?
Heart-healthy food doesn’t have to be complicated. The best thing you can do for long-term success with a balanced diet is to shift your perspective from one that sees a nutritious diet as something lackluster. Instead, heart healthy foods should be the baseline. Make that your standard, in other words, and slowly it will become second nature to you. This means that your meals should all be as healthy as possible – and so should snacks. Everyone gets hungry between meals now and then but opting for something from a vending machine isn’t the answer. Those calories can count up quickly and you might find yourself backsliding into unhealthy eating habits.
Instead of scrambling to find something to eat when the urge to snack strikes, include them in your plan. If you know you tend to get hungry around 3PM, for example, pack a healthy snack you can eat to keep your energy levels up and your diet on track. Some easy examples include things like string cheese, carrot sticks, nuts, and homemade hummus with vegetable dippers. Include these in your daily calorie total!
What are some healthy foods to eat?
The great news about eating a balanced diet is that there is no shortage of food options to keep you engaged. In general, there are a few factors to keep in mind when evaluating a food or dish: its calorie count, its fat content, its trans fat content, and its sodium and sugar levels. That might sound like a lot of information to keep in mind, but the truth is that it’s all right there on the label – you just have to remember to look. You should be aiming to buy food that is low in fat but high in protein, with low levels of sugar, sodium, and trans fats. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular healthy eating options.
Leafy green vegetables are some of the most beneficial foods you can eat to boost heart health. This includes things like spinach, collard greens, kale, and broccoli, and consuming two to three cups of cooked greens a day can help you hit your nutritional needs for the day in short order. The best thing about greens is that they can be used in a variety of different ways, from sandwich wraps to salads.
Oates are another heart-healthy food to include in your diet that can be dressed up or down. It’s the perfect breakfast option, perhaps with a bit of cinnamon, but it can be eaten at any time of the day. You can even add them to rice and risotto dishes or make snack bars with them to enjoy any time the mood strikes. Similarly, nuts are an excellent source of heart-healthy plant-protein and omega-3, a heart-healthy fat. Nuts offer a number of benefits, one of the most important being that the unsaturated fats they contain might help lower your “bad” cholesterol as well as prevent blood clots. It is important to note here that you should be looking at raw nuts, not prepared nuts – packages of cooked nuts at the grocery store are likely full of salt and other preservatives.
Beans, also known as legumes, are another great staple on the heart healthy foods list. That’s because they’re full of heart-healthy compounds like plant-based protein (a great substitute for meat), antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. They also boast folate and phytates, both of which are thought to lower the risk of depression, stroke, and certain kinds of cancer. Still not enough benefit? In addition to all of the above, legumes contain phytoestrogens that have been known to help slow down bone loss and reduce blood cholesterol. Aim for three servings a day, with one serving roughly translating to one half a cup of cooked beans, one fourth cup of hummus, or one cup of fresh peas. You can add legumes to just about anything, from burritos to spreads and bean dips – there is bound to be something that fits your lifestyle.
When it comes to heart healthy diets, foods like those discussed above are vital. They can help you consume all of the nutrients you need every day while working to protect your heart from damage and boost your physical and mental health.
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