February 24, 2021

What You Really Need From Food

With a constant stream of new fad diets, online weight loss ads, and supposed “miracle” foods, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to heart health and nutrition. Do the terms saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar sound familiar? These dietary elements, found mainly in fried or processed foods, fatty meat or dairy, prepackaged snacks, and sugary drinks, can be detrimental to heart health. Over time, consistent intake of such foods may contribute to high blood pressure and fatty build-up in the blood, both of which can increase your risk for heart disease.

Though no food should be 100% off-limits, save the items above for special occasions and help control your risk by moving towards a heart-healthy diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. See below for three steps to get you started in the right direction!

  • Increase Fiber: Fiber is a structural component of food that is not broken down by the body during digestion. Since it is not absorbed, it can instead bind “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and remove it from the body. Fiber may also help control blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Try incorporating more fiber-rich foods such as beans, oats, whole grains, Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli, apples, pears and more!

 

  • Limit Sodium: A diet high in sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, one of the top risk factors for heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. That equates to about one teaspoon of salt! To control your sodium intake:
    • Season with herbs and spices instead of salt
    • Choose canned and frozen items with no salt or sauce added
    • Drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans
    • Look for packaged foods labeled “reduced sodium”, “low sodium”, or “no salt added” and with less than 600mg sodium per serving
    • Choose fresh ingredients whenever possible

 

  • Incorporate Healthy Fats: Saturated fats, found mainly in animal-based protein, can contribute to increased “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Unsaturated fats, particularly when replacing saturated fats, can help decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels. To get these healthy fats, incorporate foods like fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils on a regular basis.

Making dietary changes can feel overwhelming. Just remember to take it day by day, be consistent and, when in doubt, always come back to the basics!

 

Weekly Recipe

Black Bean Salad with Avocado-Lime Dressing

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Sarah Michaels

Authored By

Sarah Michaels , RN

Director of Kinetiq Health
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