Take some extra time in the grocery store and inspect the packaging on some of the foods. You will notice heart symbols on some that tout the product as an important part of a heart healthy diet. Other symbols or terminology might be used too but the fact remains that as the population's health problems rise, the more that manufacturers start focusing on marketing their healthier foods.
It is no secret that healthy diet practices result in lower cholesterol levels. In turn, this means you will have a healthier heart as well as all that go with it. Could a handful of nuts a day could keep the doctor away? What about a bowl of oatmeal or enhanced margarine? If your diet could use a bit of a revamp, consider some healthier substitutions for the fatty parts of your diet.
Your goal should be to keep the consumption of saturated and trans fats low in order to reduce heart disease risk and cholesterol levels. If you are unsure where to start, here are five heart healthy foods you can incorporate to get you started on a better eating plan:
1. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids – You will find the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and therefore in the consumption of such fish varieties as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna and more. These fatty acids work to help lower blood pressure and they help reduce the risk of blood clotting. Canola oil and flaxseed are two plant-based foods that also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Don't bother with a dietary supplement as you would not be getting the other beneficial properties these foods provide such as extra vitamins and minerals.
2. Oats – Oatmeal is regaining popularity as a breakfast food thanks to its heart healthy properties. As a soluble fiber, it can reduce the "bad" cholesterol (LDL). In addition, it fills you up to prevent overeating and prevents as much cholesterol from your food being absorbed in the intestine. You can also get your oatmeal through cold breakfast cereals or sprinkling oat bran on food.
3. Plant stanols or sterols – These are substances found in plants that mimic the cellular wall structure of animal-based cholesterol. These stanols and sterols help hinder the absorption of cholesterol in the body to keep your levels down and your heart healthier. There are still food studies being done on the plant stanols and sterols but so far, they have proven worthy of lowering LDL cholesterol levels and reducing triglycerides as well. Margarine and yogurts are two food products that contain these substances.
4. Olive oil – If you need oil for recipes or cooking, olive oil is a great choice as it lowers your bad LDL cholesterol levels while keeping your good HDL ones in check. The monounsaturated fats helps reduce belly fat and the antioxidants are great for the heart as well. The great news about olive oil is that is can be used for most anything from marinades and dressings to sautéing vegetables and meats.
5. Nuts and seeds – Full of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, nuts help maintain elasticity in blood vessels which in turn keeps blood pressure regulated. The flip side is that nuts are high in calories so you are limited to a small amount eat day. Otherwise, you are at risk for being overweight and causing undue stress on your heart because of the weight gain. Moderation is the key and you can enjoy the benefits from such nuts as pecans, macadamias, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, peanuts and almonds.