Diet and Heart Disease
What you eat matters, especially if you suffer from heart disease or if you are at risk. Coronary heart disease is a narrowing of the arteries caused by plaque build-up. With narrow, hardened arteries it is more difficult for the heart to pump blood through the body. There is a greater risk of heart attack or stroke as blood clots can form and partially or fully stop the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.
What is this accumulation of plaque along artery walls? Cholesterol, fatty deposits, and calcium deposits, as well as other waste substances in the blood. A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet can be one of the causes of heart disease. Likewise a nutrient, essential fatty acid, and fiber-rich diet can help treat heart disease. Find out what to include in the chronic heart disease diet and how to increase your well-being through making smarter choices with what you eat.
Low-Sodium, Fat, and Cholesterol Doesn’t Mean Low-Enjoyment
What needs to be minimized in a diet to care for the heart is sodium, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol. Excess sodium can lead to high blood pressure, worsening chronic heart disease. How to cut sodium out of your diet to a healthy level? Try to eat fresh food rather than processed, preserved, and canned foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables, raw, unsalted nuts, and home-cooked meals seasoned with herbs rather than salt are the way to go.
Too much saturated fat and cholesterol can increase plaque build-up, again making cardiovascular health worse. According to the American Heart Association only seven percent of calories consumed should come from saturated fat. Cholesterol intake should be below 200 milligrams. This means limiting your intake of animal products, especially red meats, butter, cheese, and cream. Switch to egg whites. What you can enjoy instead is cold-pressed olive oil, other vegetable oils, lean proteins such as tofu, beans, fish, and chicken, low-fat yogurt,
frozen yogurt, and low-fat milk.
Eating a low-sodium, low-fat, and low-cholesterol diet is not that difficult. It is only a matter of changing what you eat. Let go of the foods that may have contributed to heart disease in the first place and embrace the foods that will help to remove plaque build-up from artery walls and lower high blood pressure.
More to Avoid
Aside from minimizing sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat as much as possible also try to stay away from refined sugars and white flour. They can cause unhealthy blood sugar levels. What to eat instead? Honey, brown sugar, and whole wheat flour products. Avoid or minimize stimulants such as cola, black tea, and coffee. Caffeine can raise blood pressure levels. Talk to your doctor about switching to a low-caffeine alternative such as green tea. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. In moderation it may be alright, but excessive drinking can harm the heart.
The Good Stuff
What can and should you eat to care for your heart if you suffer from heart disease? Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They will supply antioxidants, which will help to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, as well as important nutrients for heart health such as magnesium, potassium, and vitamins B6 and B12. They will also supply fiber, which is so important for lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Eat whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, barley, quinoa, and amaranth. Choose legumes, from lentils and black beans to chick peas and soy. In fact soy protein is a great food to eat to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Nuts and seeds are great because of their high content of unsaturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential for cleansing the blood of plaque build-up.
Eating for Your Heart
Following a chronic heart disease diet is so important. What you eat can lower blood cholesterol levels, lower high blood pressure, and improve heart health. It is never too late to make positive changes to your diet.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Cad/CAD\_WhatIs.html
Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
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