Embrace a lifestyle of heart-healthy habits by monitoring daily meals and making smarter dietary choices. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a set of guidelines recognized by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that outlines heart-friendly foods and habits.
The DASH eating plan recommends foods that are:
- low in saturated and trans fats
- low in cholesterol
- low in sodium
- rich in potassium
- rich in calcium
- rich in magnesium
- rich in fiber
- rich in protein
Start following the DASH eating plan by including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Choose skinless poultry and fish as an alternative to red meat which can be high in fat content. Always look for low-sodium or no-salt-added alternatives to everyday products and ingredients. Whole foods and fresh produce should be chosen over canned or processed foods whenever possible.
When planning meals, consider each food group as an equal portion of a dish rather than letting protein or carbs be the focus. Enhance flavor using herbs and spices instead of relying on additional salts and sugars. Find ways to spread food groups across multiple meals throughout your day by including fruits and vegetables as snacks or sides.
Keep track of each meal in a daily journal, making note of nutritional value as well as any sodium or saturated fats. Record any physical activity that you do that day and monitor your blood glucose levels if you are able. These records can help create more opportunities for patient-doctor conversations about your heart health.
Even small dietary improvements can go toward benefiting long term heart health. Reduced sodium can prevent high blood pressure, or hypertension, in which the heart is working too hard to provide oxygen to the body. A healthy diet can also lead to weight loss or improved weight management, eliminating another factor that would put someone at risk of heart disease later in life. Finally, a well-rounded diet can help to ensure that your body receives proper nutrients that go toward overall health and wellness.
Find more ways to take daily steps toward improved heart health with this downloadable PDF by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Their #OurHeart initiative promotes the idea of coming together for healthier hearts and healthier lives overall.
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