Heart-healthy Eating

Marco Verch, Flickr. CC license.

Why eat heart healthy?    

There are several benefits of eating a heart healthy diet. It can reduce risk of heart disease by controlling cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.

While eating heart healthy may initially seem complicated, it is actually very straightforward. A heart-healthy diet consists of plentiful fruits and vegetables, adequate protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and less added sugars and sodium. While all the food groups listed are important, two to focus on especially are lean protein and vegetables. These are important not only for heart health, but also for those trying to lose weight.

Lean Protein

Lean protein helps repair wounds and maintain muscle mass. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure according to the American Heart Association. Some great options for lean protein are 90% or leaner beef, chicken or turkey, fish, non-fat dairy, beans/lentils, and various supplemental shakes such as HMR 70 or HMR 800.

  • Nutrition facts
    • One ounce of meat contains 7 grams of protein and very little or no carbohydrate
    • An average serving size is 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
  • Very lean protein options (0 – 1 gram of fat per ounce)
    • Chicken or turkey (white, no skin)
    • Cottage cheese, reduced fat
    • Cheese, fat-free
    • Egg white
    • Fish
    • Shellfish
    • Tofu
    • Beans
    • Lentils
  • Lean protein (2 – 3 grams of fat/ounce)
    • Chicken or turkey, dark meat, no skin
    • Cheese, low-fat (1 to 3g fat/oz)
    • Cottage cheese, regular
    • Lean beef (round, flank, sirloin)
    • Lean pork (loin, tenderloin)

Low Starch Vegetables

Low starch (LS) vegetables are an important part of a heart healthy diet as they add fiber, vitamins and minerals to the diet. According to the American Heart Association, LS vegetables play a key role in helping maintain weight and blood pressure. It is important to remember to “eat the rainbow” because different colored vegetables have different phytonutrients that help protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer. Aim for two or three servings of LS vegetables per day.

Alfalfa sproutsArtichokeArtichoke hearts
AsparagusBean sproutsBroccoli
Brussels sproutsCabbageCarrot
CauliflowerCeleryChicory
Chinese cabbageCucumberEggplant
Green beansGreen onions or scallionsGreens
JicamaKohlrabiLeeks
LettuceMushroomsOkra
OnionsParsleyPeppers
RadishesRhubarbRutabaga
Snow peasSpinachSummer squash
Swiss chardTomatoTurnips
Water chestnutsWatercressZucchini

– Tim Matthews is a dietetic intern with Beaumont Health.

Adapted from: University of Michigan – Comprehensive Diabetes Center

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