Whether you’re recovering from a heart attack or just trying to prevent one, eating a balanced diet full of whole foods and nutrients should be part of your plan. Eating the right foods helps keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check, which also helps keep your heart healthy.
So how do you start making changes to your diet that can improve your heart health? It might not be as difficult as you think. Making simple food swaps can keep your heart healthy and set you up for an overall healthier life.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
The best thing to do for your heart and overall health is to ensure that you get five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A simple way to do this is to substitute certain foods with tasty vegetables or mix vegetables into your favorite recipes. When you swap less healthy foods for more fruits and vegetables, processed foods are automatically “forced out” of your diet.
These simple food swaps are simple ways you can start improving your overall health:
- Choose cauliflower pizza crust with veggies over regular pizza crust.
- Spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles are great swaps for regular pasta.
- Swap regular rice with cauliflower rice.
Reduce Intake of Animal Protein
Research shows an excess consumption of red meat and processed meat is tied to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, especially colorectal cancer. A study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that plant-based protein from foods such as vegetables, legumes, and grains could aid in weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin resistance when compared to the consumption of red or processed meats.
A great way to reduce your intake of animal protein is to replace meat with a plant-protein option at least once per week.
Replace the Type of Sugar You Consume
Desserts such as cookies, cakes, and pastries may taste great, but they include a variety of ingredients, like sugar, white flour, and butter, which are high in unhealthy trans fats. But you can still satisfy your sweet tooth with options that are lower in sugar.
Give these sugar swaps a try:
- Replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate.
- Switch out soda for sparkling, flavored water or low-sugar teas and juices.
- Gruit, sugar-free jello, and smoothies are great alternatives to cookies, cakes, and candies.
Be Mindful of Ingredients
You can scale back on added calories and trans fats by substituting with healthier options in your recipes.
Try these ingredient swaps that are low in calories and trans fats:
- Use vegetable oil instead of butter.
- Swap sour cream with greek yogurt.
- Reduce your salt intake by adding a splash of vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon, or additional herbs and spices to your food instead.
BONUS: Add Exercise to Your Daily Routine
In addition to making healthier food choices, find ways to fit more exercise into your daily routine. Small changes during the day can make a huge impact on your health.
Here are a few ways you can easily add exercise to your day:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park at the end of the parking lot, so you must walk further to get to the entrance.
- Set a reminder to take a 5-minute walk every hour.
- Invest in a step tracker and set a goal to hit 10,000 steps a day.