Eating healthy is very important, and the choices we make every day can really make a huge impact on how we feel at the end of the day. If your body is feeling off, first thing is to look at your current lifestyle, such as; what you’re doing, what you’re eating, and how much sleep and exercise you get.
To help keep track of everything, if you’re not one to write things down you can always use your smart phone or tablet to write down what you’re eating, when you go to bed and how much exercise you get. This process can be easily done, considering all the apps which have been created over the years. If you don’t use a smart phone, you can write everything down in a journal or notebook. Track everything down for a month and then look back to see where you’re at. Keeping this info, and giving it to your doctor, can help you make the more appropriate choices for a better lifestyle.
Poor diet and poor food choices can have a negative effect on your heart, weight, and overall health. Making small changes daily on diet and physical activity can have a huge impact on the quality of life you have.
Dietary Dos and Don’ts
DO focus on fruits and vegetables. Many people don’t come close to the recommended minimum of 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day. Looking at colours in fruits and veggies is important in a heart-healthy diet. They’re rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help with a healthy heart and body. They’re also filling, low in calories, which helps control weight management. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned (without sugar/syrup/or salt added), raw, cooked – all fruits and veggies are good for you!
DON’T overdo it on juice or processed fruit snacks in syrup. Fruit filling in pastries are mostly sugar, and doesn’t count for a serving of fruit. Small amounts of 100% fruit juice can fit into a diet, they’re full of naturally occurring sugars and calories, compared to whole fruits which boost heart-healthy fiber while juices don’t.
DO monitor your sodium intake. Our bodies do need this mineral, but in smaller quantities than we normally eat! A healthy sodium goal is no more than 1,500 milligrams per day of sodium to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. Sodium doesn’t only come from a salt shaker, high quantities of sodium is hidden in processed foods, frozen dinners, canned veggies, condiments, deli meats and cheeses, as well as in restaurant food.
DON’T forget about added sugars. Sugar provides quick-digesting carbohydrates but no real nutrition. Many people associate sugar with developing diabetes, but few realize that sugar plays a huge rule in heart disease as dietary fat does. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who ate more sugar had lower levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol and high triglycerides – which are markers for higher risk to heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 6 tsps of added sugars (100 calories) each day; and 9 tsps (150 calories) for men. One 12oz can of cola has 130 calories (8 tsp of sugar).
DO cut back on fat. You need to choose the right types of fat and not eat too much of it to reduce your risk to heart disease. Most adults consume too much fat, so cutting back on fat is a good first step to a heart healthy diet. Choosing low-fat products, baking or broiling instead of frying and reducing fats that recipes call for is a great way to start reducing the fats in your daily diet. Try to avoid trans-fats (oils and margarines), and saturated fats (fatty meats and dairy), which help elevate your cholesterol level. About 25-35% of your total calories for the day should come from fat sources. For someone eating 1,500 calories a day, that’s approx. 41-58 grams of fat.
DON’T fear all fats. Not all fats are bad for you. Monounsaturated fat and Omega-3 fats are great to promote heart health. Once you understand your fats, try making smart fat choices to meet those daily recommendations. Fats found in nuts, oils, soybean and canola oils, fish and seafood; are all great examples of good fats.
DO drink in moderation (if you’re a drinker). Research shows that a controlled amount of alcohol intake has been linked with decreased risk for certain types of cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary heart disease. Moderate alcohol intake is 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
DON’T start drinking alcohol if you aren’t already a drinker. If you currently aren’t a drinker, it’s not good to start. Other healthy habits can help reduce your risk to heart disease, such as; not smoking, eating right, and regular physical activity.
DO fill up on fiber. Certain fibres help lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. Adults should consume 20-30 grams of fibre per day. Good examples of food are unprocessed plant-based foods, such as whole grains which include oats, whole-wheat bread, flour, veggies and beans. .
DON’T forget about cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance made in liver and cells of animals. It is found in animal products, such as; meats, poultry, dairy and eggs. High intakes of cholesterol can make you more at risk for heart disease. To prevent heart disease, lower your intake to cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams per day. If you have high cholesterol level or taking medication, you need to lower your daily intake to 200 milligram per day.