Blog Post

What Does It Actually Mean to Have a Heart-Healthy Diet?

Whether you have a heart problem or are trying to be proactive about your heart health, one of the best places to start making changes is with your diet. 

Making those changes can be difficult if you take your cues from anyone other than Dr. Fahmi Farah and our team at Bentley Heart. We give you the best information backed by science and tailored to your needs. 

Here’s a quick look at some of the basics of a heart-healthy diet. 

You eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables offer some of the most nutrients with the lowest number of calories. They’re also often fiber-rich, which is crucial to preventing heart disease. 

You choose whole grains

Few things are more satisfying than a warm pastry or a bowl of your favorite snack crackers, but those foods and others like them do nothing for your heart or overall health. Swap processed, refined grains for whole grains, like whole wheat flour, whole-grain bread, quinoa, oatmeal, and high-fiber cereals. 

Whole grains and fiber are excellent natural blood pressure regulators, which can prevent many of the most common heart problems. 

You avoid unhealthy fats

A fatty diet raises blood cholesterol and increases the risk for heart problems like coronary artery disease. But there are several different types of fat, and not all of them are bad. 

The American Heart Association recommends avoiding trans fats as much as possible and keeping saturated fats to less than 6% of your daily calories. You can do this easily by:

  • Trimming fat from your favorite cuts of meat
  • Choosing leaner meats
  • Using less butter, margarine, and shortening while cooking
  • Eating low-fat substitutions when possible

Be cautious when grocery shopping. Some low-fat options still contain trans fat, listed as hydrogenated oils on the ingredient label. 

You can (and sometimes should) eat mono- and polyunsaturated fats. They include olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. 

You steer clear of sodium and salt

Despite what you might think, sodium and salt are not the same. Salt is an ingredient that contains sodium, which is a mineral. Sodium appears in other places like milk, celerity, and processed foods like soup and bread. 

Too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, so we recommend consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium (about a teaspoon) daily. 

Start by toning down how much salt you cook, then substitute low-sodium options like herbs and spices, salt-free seasoning blends, and reduced-sodium soups and condiments.

You control your portion sizes

What you eat is just as important as how much you eat. If you tend to overload your plate, take second (or third) helpings, or continue to eat even when you’re full, you’re likely consuming more calories than you should. This is especially true if you eat out at restaurants where they serve much larger portions than we recommend. 

It’s easy to get a handle on portion size if you keep these rules of thumb in mind:

  • Use small plates and bowls
  • Eat large amounts of high-volume, low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods
  • Eat smaller amounts of high-calorie, high-sodium foods
  • Don’t eat distracted
  • Stop eating when you’re full

The American Heart Association also has this guide to help you know how much of each food group you should eat. 

You plan ahead

At the start of your week, take some time to write down what you plan to eat every day. Doing so will help you adhere to the guidelines and make healthier decisions. 

You have a treat once in a while

Just because you’re eating with your heart in mind doesn’t mean you can never enjoy your favorite foods again. A candy bar here or a handful of snack crackers there won’t derail your health journey, and it may help you stay on track while you’re making big changes. 

Looking for more personalized information on supporting your heart health? Call our friendly staff at 817-720-5185 or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment.