Heart disease is the #1 killer of women and men and has an enormous impact on health worldwide, even though we can prevent it with lifestyle 90% of the time. Equally important is that the same factors that lead to heart disease play a dramatic role in your quality of life. The good news is that when you take steps to tune up your heart, you benefit your circulation, and consequently you enhance your energy, waistline, brain speed, and romantic function.
FIVE HEART HEALTHY FOOD GROUPS YOU SHOULD ENJOY EVERY DAY
#1. Feed on Fabulous Fiber:
If you only measured one nutrient, I would want you to pick FIBER. Fiber is the roughage that comes with vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts. These sources of fiber suppress appetite (helping you reduce weight), improves your blood sugar and cholesterol profile, decreases inflammation, and slows aging. Fiber is loaded with age-busting nutrients. Your challenge is to get 30 grams, which is about 10 servings of fiber-rich foods daily.
But don’t be fooled into getting your fiber in the form of processed grains (such as whole wheat flour), because any time you process a grain into flour, it acts just like sugar in your bloodstream, hurting your heart and your brain.
Best is to focus on enjoying daily:
- 3 cups of vegetables (make sure one of those cups is a green leafy veggie)
- 2 pieces of fruit (such as a cup of berries or an apple)
- 2 handfuls of nuts and seeds
- ½ to 1 cup of beans
#2. Eat More Smart Fats:
You don’t need to follow a low fat-diet, I would even say you shouldn’t be on a low-fat diet because you actually need more smart fats. Clinical studies show that enjoying fats from seafood, virgin olive oil, and nuts decreases your risk for a heart attack and stroke, and nourishes your brain, without gaining weight. Enjoy fats from avocado, seeds, and dark chocolate, too. These healthy fats are critical for your brain, and they improve your hormone balance and reduce inflammation.
#3. Eat Clean, Not Mean Protein:
Mean protein comes from commercial fatty meats and fatty dairy that are loaded with hormones and pesticides.
Clean protein can come from either protein powders, beans, organic dairy, or wild and/or pasture-raised animal products.
For wild seafood, consider grilled salmon, baked sole, and steamed shellfish.
For clean poultry, focus on free-range, organic-fed options, such chicken fajitas and roasted Cornish game hens with lovely herbs, and be sure to add extra herbs for both flavor and health. Plus, organic, free-range, eggs are back on the menu, so you can enjoy a terrific omelet.
If you eat red meat, focus on grass-fed, grass-finished, organically raised beef and pork products.
For clean protein plus fiber, don’t forget beans, as they improve blood sugar and cholesterol profiles and are the most powerful anti-aging food ever tested. As an example, you’ll get to enjoy tasty bean dips, great chili, and a lovely hummus.
If you are in a restaurant and can’t find any clean protein options, then focus on lean, as the leaner (less fatty) cuts have fewer toxins. Aim for chicken and turkey breast options, seafood, and more vegetarian options.
#4. Enjoy More Beneficial Beverages:
Start with pure water, at least 4 cups per day, and for something with caffeine, green tea is the best. All unsweetened tea is great, and mint tea is lovely too. With this plan, you can still enjoy 1-3 cups of coffee per day, because in moderation those tea and coffee pigments are good for you.
Don’t forget my favorite breakfast, a fiber and protein-rich smoothie (it only takes 2 minutes to make and includes protein powder, frozen-organic cherries or blueberries, and almond milk,—It is delicious, and you’ll be satisfied and revved up all morning!
You can have a glass of wine with dinner, just be sure to limit your alcohol intake to 1-2 servings. Red wine is the healthiest form of alcohol for your heart and brain, but no form of alcohol is healthy if you consume more than 3 servings per day.
Don’t be fooled into drinking juice, as without the fiber and pulp, fruit juice is closer to drinking soda than eating fruit.
#5. Savor More Fantastic Flavors:
One thing I discovered during my chef internship at the Four Seasons restaurant is that food must taste good for people to enjoy it. People won’t eat healthy foods if they taste like cardboard.
You may wonder if flavors are worthy of being a food group but, who would argue about making dark chocolate a food group? The fats in chocolate act like olive oil in your body and they are awesome for your heart and brain. Yes, I’m asking you to eat some form of dark chocolate and/or drink cocoa every day! But not milk chocolate, that is just candy, it has to be made from at least 74% cacao.
Spices and herbs make your food taste great, and Italian herbs, curry spices, garlic, and hot chili spices all block arterial plaque growth, slow aging, rev your metabolism, and lower inflammation.
Overall, by adding these foods daily, you will nourish your heart, reduce your risk for a future heart attack and stroke, and you will find yourself becoming younger, trimmer, fitter, mentally sharper, and healthier every day.
I wish you the best of health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS