There are actually many fantastic ways to eat a heart healthy diet and you don’t have to go on a certain plan to do so. The key to eating a heart healthy diet is to add in foods that aid heart health, which simply helps you crowd out foods that don’t support a healthy heart. Some of the most delicious foods, in my opinion, are the ones best for your heart. To have a healthy heart, dieting isn't just about eating foods, but also about lifestyle choices that support your diet. Check out my favorite tips for a heart healthy diet and take the focus off losing pounds. Most likely, the stress of doing so is only hurting your heart and your weight loss goals. These foods and tips will help you shed weight, resume better blood pressure, lower your stress and increase your longevity.
1. Eat the Rainbow
One of the best tips for a heart healthy diet is to eat a rainbow of colors. Eat as many colorful fruits and veggies as you can. Why so? The various colors in fruits and veggies are exterior signs of their different antioxidant and nutritional makeup. For instance, red produce like watermelon and tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is an antioxidant that prevents cancer and supports your heart health. Those veggies and fruits rich in orange hues are rich in beta carotene, which is an antioxidant formed from Vitamin A that supports your heart, skin, and eye health. Veggies that are dark green, including leafy greens, are rich in chlorophyll and Vitamin K. These nutrients are important for removing toxins and aiding in blood clotting to aid in healthy blood pressure levels. Be sure to eat multitudes of colors every single day from fruits and veggies.
One of the easiest exercises and things you can do for your heart, weight and mind, is to walk. Walking at a brisk pace, around 3.8-4.0 mph or so, is a great way to reduce your blood pressure, lose weight, manage stress and increase your cardiovascular health. Walking for 30-45 minutes a day is optimal and try to do this at least 6 days a week if not every day.
3. Get Your Beauty Sleep
Girls, sleep isn’t just important for your beauty regimen, though that’s plenty of incentive for me! Sleep is essential to your heart health. When you sleep less than 6 hours, your biochemistry completely changes. Calories are more prone to be stored as fat because your body isn’t well rested enough to use the calories for burning fat and aiding metabolism. Lack of sleep also changes your hunger hormones that tell you whether you’re hungry or not, leading you to eat more, and worst of all, a lack of sleep makes you more stressed. When you’re stressed, the stress hormone cortisol is pumped throughout your body at alarmingly consistent rates. What does this mean? Your blood pressure increases, your digestive system stops working efficiently and the stress begins to affect your heart health, even after just one night of a lack of sleep. Sleep at least 7-8 hours to prevent this and if you suffer insomnia, consider taking an over the counter sleep aid, or see a doctor.
4. Eat Your Omegas
I’m personally a huge fan of fish. I adore it for its health properties, beauty properties, and more. Yet, if you don’t like fish, or don’t eat it for dietary purposes, there are some other choices. Fish is great for your heart health because it is rich in heart healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce blood pressure, aid in fighting depression that creates stress on your heart, aid in healthy blood flow, and manage your insulin levels. When your insulin levels are out of whack, it greatly affects your heart. All your hormones such as insulin work together in your body to keep your heart healthy and prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Fish and foods such as flax, walnuts, chia seeds and hemp seeds, all contain rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acids that keep your heart healthy. Fish is also rich in protein and magnesium. Magnesium is a wonderful mineral for your heart and nervous system. Magnesium reduces stress and blood pressure, and helps to prevent insulin surges in the body. Eat 5 servings of fish a week and eat as many other sources of Omega 3 fatty acids whenever you can.
5. Drink Green Tea
Green tea is one of your heart’s best friends, along with being excellent for your skin and metabolism. Green tea is rich in antioxidants that aid in reducing blood pressure, stress, reducing insulin levels, and improving your metabolism. Though green tea has caffeine in it, it is much lower in caffeine than coffee. Green tea’s most powerful substance that aids in heart health is the amino acid known as L- theanine. L- theanine sends a calming sensation throughout the body, which reduces stress. I drink one or two cups a day of green tea, and you can get some of the same benefits from decaf green tea. Sweeten with lemon and stevia if you want a healthy way to flavor it, or add a splash of milk to make a green tea latte.
6. Relax Already
Stress is one of the most harmful aspects of our lives when it comes to taking care of our hearts. Not only can stress contribute to high blood pressure, increased cortisol, irregular appetites and bad digestion, but it also harms the heart directly by increasing heart beat and interfering with arterial blood flow. This constant pressure on the heart can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Try relaxing more, whether meditating, doing yoga, taking nightly baths, getting up each morning a little earlier to have some quiet time, and taking moments throughout the day to yourself. You’ll find yourself less stressed over time and will learn how to manage the daily stress we all face just a bit better. Reducing stress is key to eating healthy so that you can make good choices and balance your hormones that can cause weight gain if not cared for properly.
7. Eat Less Salt
While we do need some sodium in our diets, we can get all that we need through natural sodium contents in foods. Don’t buy processed foods, which have added salt, and buy fresh or frozen veggies versus canned to avoid added salt. Buy whole, clean foods, and steer clear of restaurant meals except for occasional outings. Even healthy menu options from restaurants are sky high in sodium, whether they have added salt or not. High sodium leads to high blood pressure, increased stress, and dehydration, which all harm your heart. Over time, this can lead to serious issues such as pulmonary artery disease among others.
For more information on heart health, visit one of my favorite websites, The American Heart Association at heart.org. The website is filled with tons of great info on how to take care of your ticker! After all, your heart is responsible for every aspect of your life. Treat it well, and it will treat you well. What are your favorite heart healthy tips?