Did you know that in 2017 almost 50 per cent of deaths from heart disease were linked to an unhealthy diet? Following a heart-healthy diet is not as hard as you may think! The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends that you:
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Choose those that are high in vitamin C and vitamin A. These two vitamins are known as antioxidants and help to slow down or prevent the buildup of plaque in your arteries. Examples include broccoli, carrots, kiwi, oranges, and tomatoes.
2. Choose foods made with whole grains. Foods with whole grains contain fiber, protein and nutrients that help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Examples include oats, brown rice, whole wheat and quinoa.
3. Eat a variety of protein-rich foods. Choose plant-based proteins more often than animal-based. Plant-based proteins help lower cholesterol levels and include beans, peas, and lentils. Oily fish such as salmon, lake trout and herring contain omega-3 fats which are best for your heart.
4. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Choose lean meats and plant-based proteins, fish, non-fat or low-fat dairy products and oils like canola and olive to replace saturated fats such as butter.
5. Choose foods with lower salt. A diet high in salt (also known as sodium) is linked to high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of heart disease. To reduce salt intake, try cooking with herbs and spices instead of salt, and eat mostly fresh foods. When you are out grocery shopping, read the labels and choose products that have less than 20 per cent of the “Daily Value” of sodium.
Two great resources that will help you make better choices are the newly updated Canada’s Food Guide: https://food-guide.canada.ca/static/assets/pdf/CFG-snapshot-EN.pdf) as well as the “Meal-Planning Toolkit” published by the Heart and Stroke Foundation: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/meal-planning-toolkit/heart-and-stroke-meal-planning-toolkit.ashx?la=en&hash=19F2B331B7ABC76C8DB9B97CCD4A23E57A1E0121. If you are looking for personalized advice, I strongly recommend that you speak to a Registered Dietitian. Find one near you: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Find-A-Dietitian/Find-a-Dietitian.aspx
Now that you know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit, you’re well on your way toward a heart-healthy diet!