Prioritizing heart health is crucial for optimal well-being, and implementing these seven healthy diet changes is key.
Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, and if it doesn’t work correctly, your entire body can feel the consequences.
The heart is what keeps your circulatory system going, which delivers oxygen-rich blood to all of your organs.
If this system gets damaged by diseases or injuries, our heart rhythms, heart rates, and blood circulation can get affected.
Damage like this can lead to ailments such as atrial fibrillation, which is when the chambers in the upper part of the heart cannot produce electrical signals properly.
Atrial fibrillation causes irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to unpleasant symptoms like:
- Pain in the chest;
- A feeling of lightheadedness;
- And shortness of breath.
These symptoms can make daily life difficult.
To prevent issues like atrial fibrillation, you should try to make some healthy diet changes. Simple diet changes, such as eating healthy foods and avoiding overly processed foods, can improve your overall heart health, allowing you to live a healthy life.
Here are some easy diet changes you can start today to improve your heart health.
Healthy Diet Changes That Are Beneficial To Your Heart
Keeping your heart healthy is essential to your overall health, as this organ controls all your body’s functions.
Unfortunately, a bad diet can contribute to poor heart health, and many of us don’t have the best eating habits because life is rather hectic.
To fix this, you can take some small steps towards healthy eating by adhering to the following healthy diet changes:
1. Limit Your Salt Intake
Salty diets are one of the primary causes of high blood pressure, which can lead to further issues like strokes and heart disease. You should try to stick to a diet where you consume 2,300 milligrams of sodium or less per day.
If you consistently consume over this amount, your body will start retaining higher than normal amounts of water. All this water puts pressure on your blood vessels, which is the cause of high blood pressure.
A simple way to prevent this is by eating less salt. The saltiest foods are typically highly-processed foods. So try to steer clear of things like chips, canned soup, deli meats, and cheese.
It’s okay to have these things every once in a while, but having them every day can be tough on your heart in the future. Opt for non-processed or minimally processed foods.
2. Limit Your Fat Intake
Healthy fats, or unsaturated fats, are great for your heart and overall body, as they help your body produce energy to perform its functions. However, saturated fats are the ones you need to watch out for and limit your intake.
Saturated fats become solid at typical room temperature. So, you can expect foods like cheese or butter to have high amounts of saturated fat.
It’s okay to have these types of foods as a treat, but never indulge in high amounts of them every single day. Doing this will cause a nasty build-up of bad cholesterol, also called LDL, in your blood.
Increased amounts of cholesterol will put you at higher risk for heart disease, and you can expect some weight gain as well.
High cholesterol can put you at risk for irregular heart rhythms due to atrial fibrillation and even plaque build-up that can block your arteries.
To decrease your fat intake, opt for non-red meats like chicken and fish, beans, tofu, and fresh fruits and vegetables. All of these foods have little to no saturated fat. Focus on fresh foods.
3. Limit Your Intake Of Added Sugars
High intakes of added sugars, like candy, desserts, and soda, can lead to diabetes. This ailment affects your entire body, not just your blood sugar.
Diabetes causes your blood sugar to be very high, which negatively changes the way your body uses food for energy. It puts you at high risk for strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and various other issues.
Diabetes can even hurt your heart by damaging its blood vessels and nerves. Damage like this can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and atrial fibrillation because your heart cannot send electrical signals correctly.
To keep yourself from experiencing this, limit your intake of added sugars and opt for healthier sweet options like fresh fruit. You’ll get the sweetness you crave without putting tons of sugar in your bloodstream.
Dark chocolate is another delicious option, as it has much less sugar than milk chocolate. Opt for chocolate with high percentages of cocoa.
4. Use Portioning And Plan Meals Ahead Of Time
Always use the recommended portion sizes. Portioning helps give you the correct amount of food you need and prevents overeating.
If you constantly overeat, you can expect weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other issues in the future, which can all damage your heart.
To help with portioning, use portion plates or generally smaller plates to prevent yourself from eating too many calories, fat, salt, etc.
Planning your meals ahead of time can help keep you on track as well. Try making a list of healthy meals you want to make for each day of the week, so you’ll have unprocessed and nutrient-rich food available.
Planning meals ahead of time will also help you know exactly what you need from the grocery store rather than mindlessly throwing unnecessary things into the cart. So you’ll save money on groceries too.
5. Eat Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, And Protein
Fresh food is always better for your body than processed foods. Opt for fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to keep your stomach full.
Fruits and vegetables have plenty of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy, as well as high water content to help keep you hydrated.
Instead of reaching for a burger or a steak, try to stick to white meats like chicken and turkey and fish like tuna and salmon.
Beans and tofu are also perfect protein options if you’re trying to cut back on meat or if you’re vegetarian.
Mix it up and only allow yourself to have red meats twice a week at a maximum.
Fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins typically have lower amounts of salt, fat, and sugar, which will help prevent or improve diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
6. Eat Whole Grains Instead Of Refined Grains
Refined grains, such as white bread, crackers, and desserts, have little to no nutrients in them due to processing. So, they do not help your body. Try to go for foods that have whole grains instead.
Whole grains are heart-healthy, as they don’t go through harsh processing, leaving their nutrients, such as vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin E, and iron, intact.
They can help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of diabetes, strokes, and heart diseases. Whole grains can even lower your chances of certain cancers of the large intestine.
Some whole-grain foods that you should add to your diet include the following:
- Brown rice;
- Wild rice;
- Wheat or whole grain bread rather than white bread;
- Wheat or whole grain pasta rather than regular pasta;
7. Eat Plenty Of Fiber-Rich Foods
You’re probably familiar with eating fiber to keep your digestive tract healthy, but it can also help your heart ward off potential issues like heart disease.
Fiber can help reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which keeps strain and pressure off your heart.
Fiber is often in foods containing whole grains, so you can get both of these beneficial things without searching too hard. You’ll also find heft portions of fiber in foods such as the following:
It’s easy to incorporate these foods into your meals, and some of them serve as great snacks if you’re feeling hungry between meals.
Fiber can help keep you full and prevent you from overeating, as it takes a while for your body to digest it.
How Do These Changes Improve Overall Heart Health?
Healthy diet changes like the above can aid in improving your overall heart health by reducing your risk for ailments such as:
All of these medical issues can damage your heart and eventually lead to circulation issues, atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, strokes, clots, and even heart failure.
You need to keep your body healthy for the long run, so your heart keeps doing its job properly. Feed it the right things, and you should be on your way to a healthier heart and body.
Reduce your risk for heart problems by making healthy diet changes a little at a time. It can take some time to get used to, but your body will thank you.
You’ll live a much better life as your chances for abnormal heart rhythms due to atrial fibrillation, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease begin to reduce.
Start this health journey by limiting your intake of processed foods and focusing on natural, protein, and fiber-rich foods. Doing this will keep your stomach full and your heart happy.