You Are What You Eat

Here are five ways to help your heart through your diet, whether you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt or simply want to fine tune your eating habits.

1. Limit Unhealthy Fats and Cholesterol
Cut down on the amount of butter, margarine and shortening you add to food when cooking and use low-fat substitutions when possible. When you do use fat, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil.

2. Make Room for Legumes
Add more low-fat protein sources, like legumes, to your diet. Choose skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken breasts rather than fried chicken patties. Some types of fish – such as cod, tuna and halibut — have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than meat and poultry. And certain fish like salmon are heart healthy because they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

3. Eat Your Vegetables (and Fruit)
Vegetables and fruits are rich in dietary fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. By eating the recommended 5 to 10 servings a day, you can help curb hunger which may help you eat less high-fat foods. Just avoid smothering vegetables and fruit in butter, dressings, cream or other high-fat garnishes.

4. Select whole grains
Whole grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling, making them good sources of fiber and other nutrients. By making simple substitutions, you can easily increase the amount of whole grains in your diet. For example, choose whole-grain breads instead of those with refined white flour, whole-wheat pasta over regular pasta, and high-fiber cereals for breakfast over muffins or doughnuts.

5. Less is More
It’s not enough to know what to eat, you also need to know how much to consume. A simple rule of thumb is to remember to keep your portion size for meat, poultry and fish small — about the size of a deck of cards. This helps make room for ample servings of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Finally, allow yourself an indulgence every now and then. What’s important is that you eat healthy foods most of the time.