Eating well simply for the sake of being well may not always be enough of an incentive for a person to eat the type of diet that we associate with healthy eating. Chronic diseases such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol) and other cardiovascular diseases motivate some people to eat a more health-promoting diet.
The heart plays an integral role in sustaining life; it creates enough energy daily to drive a truck twenty (20) miles which in a lifetime is equivalent to driving to the moon and back. Preserving and protecting this vital organ is important.
The following are tips on eating to protect your heart:
- Restrict sodium intake- High sodium intake is associated with heart disease. The recommendation from the Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) diet is 2400 mg sodium which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon (6 grams) added salt daily. Watch for hidden sources of sodium in processed foods. Read food labels—items should not provide more than 300 mg of sodium per serving. Know the terms that mean there is a high sodium content-“pickled (eg. Pickled mackerel), cured (eg. Smoked beef), smoked (eg. Smoked herring), and corned (eg. corned beef)”.
- Decrease saturated fat intake- Saturated fat (from animal sources) in the blood makes the blood more thick, making it difficult for the blood to pass through the blood vessels. This increases the demands on the heart to pump blood throughout the entire body.
- Fabulous Fibre- Studies show that increased dietary fibre intake decreases blood pressure and lowers blood cholesterol. Foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes (peas and beans), and whole grains are high in dietary fibre. The recommendation is 28 grams per day for women and 35 grams per day for men.
- Magnificent Magnesium- Increase magnesium intake. Magnesium potently relaxes the smooth muscles of the blood vessels. Dietary sources include green leafy vegetables, nuts, and whole grain bread and cereals.
- Potent Potassium- Increase potassium intake. Blood vessels are more flexible with potassium intake. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium, which increases blood volume. Increased blood volume is implicated in elevated blood pressure. Dietary sources of potassium include legumes (peas and beans), raw fruits and vegetables.
- Commendable Calcium- Increase calcium intake. Researchers suggest that calcium is effective in dilating the smooth muscles of the blood vessels which has a positive effect on blood pressure. Excellent sources of calcium include legumes (peas and beans), green leafy vegetables and low fat dairy products.
- Victorious Vegetarianism- Indulge a plant-based diet. The high fibre component of the vegetarian diet prevents plaque build-up in blood vessels.
Jodi Westcarr is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys private practice. She specializes in the management of Chronic Diseases and Obesity