Heart month reinvigorates and refocuses our attention on the issues of heart health and overall well-being. The American Heart Association emphasizes that healthy eating habits can greatly improve heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. I am sure you have heard your doctor infamously advise against red meats, but changing dietary patterns can be extremely difficult. So why go through all the trouble of changing your entire dietary plan?
Studies have shown cutting fat saturated foods such as burgers and fries may often not be enough, and to have a healthy heart, we must introduce healthy diets that counteract the effects of high cholesterol. Having a healthy, well-balanced diet can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for serious heart conditions. Here are five foods to add to your diet that can fight high cholesterol and help you maintain a well-balanced diet.
1.) Fish. While not all fish are considered “heart-healthy,” many fish, including salmon, tuna, trout and herring, contain omega-3 acids that help lower cholesterol and slow down plaque buildup in your arteries. Substituting red meats with fish can have major positive effects on your heart health.
2.) Whole-Grain Breads. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that Americans eat approximately 28 to 30 grams a day. Replacing caloric-rich foods with fiber-rich breads and cereals can keep your cholesterol levels from climbing and may leave you feeling more energized throughout the day!
3.) Avocados. Studies suggest that eating an avocado every day can have a significant positive impact on LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Eating a large number of chips with guacamole can easily negate these benefits. Try dipping a carrot or celery stick in your favorite avocado dish.
4.) Beans and Nuts. Beans can be one of the best sources of fiber in a balanced diet and can also be a great substitution for meat. Try replacing ground beef in chili and take advantage of a black bean patty. Nuts also house a large amount of healthy unsaturated fats. Adding yogurt can give your nutty snack an added boost!
5.) Chocolate. Have a sweet tooth? Even chocolate can have significant impacts on heart health. Cocoa beans contain antioxidants that fight cholesterol. Generally, dark chocolate is much richer in antioxidants than lighter chocolate, so stay away from milk chocolate.
As with all dietary adjustments, moderation is key to reducing your cholesterol level and getting your heart healthy. Balanced diets are only effective to a certain degree so be sure to get plenty of exercise as well.