Top 10 tips for heart-smart eatingBy Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Choosing better-for-you foods and using heart-smart cooking techniques can help you control risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Here are 10 ways to be good to your heart.
Cook heart-smart. Choose cooking methods that use less salt and calorie-laden fat. Steam, bake, broil or grill instead of frying. Reduce salt by avoiding bouillon or salty broth (use water instead); add lots of herbs and spices to enhance flavour. TRY: Making your own salad dressing and sauces.
Choose whole grains. The fibre in whole grains like oats, quinoa, whole wheat and barley can help lower blood pressure. People who eat more whole grains have a 29 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who don’t. Aim for 3-4 servings each day. TRY: No-stir barley risotto.
Nix trans fat. Linked to clogged arteries and high cholesterol, trans fat is a no-no for happy hearts. Even a small amount is harmful. While the use of hydrogenated oil with trans fat has declined, it may still be found in some cookies, crackers and baked goods. TRY: Reading Nutrition Facts labels and only choosing items with no trans fat.
Control your portions. The amount we eat has increased over the past two decades. Choosing smaller portions can help limit calorie intake, which helps with weight control; being overweight is linked with heart disease. TRY: Using smaller plates and bowls.
Cut back on sodium. More than 70% of Canadian adults exceed their upper limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which raises the risk of high blood pressure. And more than three-quarters of that sodium comes from packaged foods. TRY: Cooking from scratch more often and comparing Nutrition Facts panels to choose products with less sodium.
Max out vegetables and fruit. With their heart-healthy combo of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre, getting at least six daily servings of vegetables and fruit is a winning idea. TRY: Starting meals with salad, snacking on fruit, and filling half your plate with vegetable side dishes.
Eat more beans. Legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils are high in cholesterol-lowering fibre. TRY: Adding chickpeas or navy beans to salad, pasta and soup; throwing some in a blender with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice for homemade hummus; having edamame as an appetizer. TRY: Red beans and rice or Baked chickpea patties.
Cook from scratch. When you control what goes into your food, you can cook with less salt, sugar and fat, and add more vegetables and whole grains. TRY: Heart and Stroke Foundation recipes to get started.
Drink skim milk: Since getting two or three daily servings of low fat dairy products can help reduce blood pressure levels, it’s important to have milk and yogurt in your diet. TRY: Sticking with low-fat options such as skim or 1% milk and yogurt.
Enjoy fish more often: The healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fat found in fish may help decrease blood pressure and triglyceride levels, which helps lower heart disease risk. Aim for 2-3 servings (75 g) of omega-3-rich salmon, tuna, trout, sardines or mackerel each week. TRY: Enjoying salmon or tuna sandwiches or sushi, or Orange glazed salmon.