“Many people know which food choices are bad for their health, such as fried foods that are rich in artery-clogging saturated fats,” says Rebecca Bass, registered and licensed dietitian at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance. “However, it’s important to understand which foods are good and what they do ‘right’ for the body. Not only are fruits and vegetables bursting with vitamins and minerals, but they contain antioxidants and flavonoids which actually protect the heart from disease.”
The heart and cardiovascular system supplies the entire body with the vital nutrients it needs to survive via the blood stream. By eating healthful foods that directly impact your heart’s health, you also help lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels, strengthen bones and replenish cells that stave off cancer.
Add This, Not That
When it comes to changing eating habits for the better, some people are driven by the desire to lose weight versus improving heart health. Because heart disease kills more Americans each year than cancer, making small dietary and lifestyle changes over time can help tip the scales for a better, fitter life in years to come. “It helps to think ‘outside the box’ when adding heart-healthy foods to meals in new ways,” Bass says. “Many fruits, such as mangos or oranges, can go into a chunky sauce or salsa to top fish or chicken. Leafy greens, including kale and spinach, literally disappear in soups, pastas and casseroles, while nuts add crunch to salads, yogurt, cottage cheese, and hot or cold cereals.”
“Different ethnicities tend to have dietary habits that can differ from the general population. However, in the United States, fried and processed foods are very popular — putting all races and both genders at an increased risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease,” said Neeraj Badhey, M.D., cardiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford and at Cardiac and Vascular Center of North Texas, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “Research shows a traditional Mediterranean diet reduces these risks and has protective effects on the heart. Eating a diet rich in olive oil, whole grains, fish, fruits, vegetables and red wine, in moderation, helps promote good health and prevents disease — no matter your background or culture.”