If you have heart health on your mind, try stocking up on some of these heart-smart foods during your next trip to the grocery store. Jane Key, RD, LD, CC, registered dietitian and chef with Kettering Health Network, provides some helpful tips to take the guesswork out of choosing heart-healthy foods.
Focus on plant-based eating.
Focus on fruits and vegetables and try to include a variety of colors at each meal. “Colors indicate anti-inflammatory properties as well as a range of nutrients that are health protective,” Jane explains. Incorporating plant-based protein in place of animal protein can also help increase fiber intake. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and nut butter are great examples of plant-based protein.
Search for whole grains.
When looking at grains, check the label and try to choose foods that have the word whole as the first ingredient. Good examples of whole grains are whole wheat bread, old fashioned oats, brown rice, and bulgur. Try to use less refined starches such as white pasta, white bread, and white rice.
Add Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids contain anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce your risk for heart disease. Seafood provides a great resource for consuming omega-3. Some choices are better than others so try to focus on dark-flesh, cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, and sardines.
“You can make substitutions in some of your favorite recipes to make your meal heart healthy,” explains Jane. When cooking, always try to use a liquid oil, like olive or canola, in place of solid fats. Instead of buying the flavored or fruity yogurts, use plain Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit to limit added sugars. When making tuna salad, swap mayonnaise with mashed avocado. You can also use mashed avocado on toast instead of butter. Pureed pumpkin and applesauce can also replace fat in baking recipes.
Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats.
Examples of foods high in saturated fat include cheese, marbled meat, and whole milk. Trans fat comes from packaged, processed foods such as crackers, cookies, snack foods, frozen pizza, and fast food. A diet high in saturated and trans fat can lead to high cholesterol levels, inflammation, and heart disease.
“Try to follow a Mediterranean lifestyle of eating. The foods consumed in the Mediterranean region tend to be more beneficial for your heart,” says Jane. “Those living in the Mediterranean eat a lot of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids; utilize more olive oil in their food rather than solid fats; eat more legumes, fruits, vegetables, and unrefined grains; and stay active by walking more.”
To find heart-healthy recipes, visit ketteringhealth.org/diabetes