At AllergyEasy, we think of food in terms of the allergic reactions it may cause and an appropriate food allergy treatment, but the food you eat can affect all aspects of our health. Your diet has a particularly profound influence on heart health.
February is a good month to focus on the heart—and not just because Valentine’s Day is coming up. February also hosts American Heart Month. Research shows that eating heart-friendly foods, combined with a healthy lifestyle, can cut your risk for cardiovascular disease by a stunning 80 percent. We consider that to be a pretty compelling reason to eat right.
What Your Heart Wants You to Eat
For optimal heart health, eat a diet that is:
High in unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are bad for the body. However, the body needs plenty of “good fats,” including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Good fats include Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in foods such as salmon, soybeans, chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseed oil.
Full of fiber. High-fiber foods can help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). Fiber also takes longer to digest, so you feel fuller longer after eating foods with a lot of fiber.
Low in sodium, saturated fat, sugar, and cholesterol. High-fiber foods include split peas, lentils, black beans, broccoli, avocados, oatmeal and bran flakes.
Alcohol-free (or low in alcohol content). Alcohol has a toxic effect on the heart. It can lead to high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
Loaded with fruits and veggies (particularly veggies that are brightly colored). Fruits and vegetables are great in general, but those that are bright red, yellow, orange, green, and purple are loaded with vitamins that are helpful for your heart. Leave the peel on when appropriate to maximize health benefits.
Just as some foods can boost your heart health, others can markedly detract from it. Avoid foods that are high in trans fats as they can elevate bad cholesterol levels and obstruct heart arteries. Limit salt as it has been linked to high blood pressure. And finally, stay away from added sugars found in many foods such as pastries, dairy desserts, and sugary drinks (such as soft drinks, juice drinks, etc.)
Heart disease is the leading killer in the U.S., taking more lives than all types of cancer combined. Show your heart some love this February by changing your diet to include at least one heart-healthy eating habit.