What is a Heart Healthy Diet?

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This is a question I asked myself only 2 days ago.  A family member recently had gone to the hospital with concerns of a rapid heart rate.  The doctors wanted to shock the heart to regulate the heart beat since it was a little off.  My family member decided against it since they knew of a friend who had the same thing and died a week after the electric shock.

I’m not here to debate or give an opinion on the decision made.  But here is one of the words of advice the doctor did prescribe, “Get on a heart healthy diet”.

And with that, they served her beef for dinner.

So what exactly is a heart healthy diet?  Good question.  Let’s break it down by asking ourselves a few questions:

1.  What causes heart problems?

This was mentioned in one of our other posts where we talked about cholesterol and its effects.  Too much bad cholesterol causes build up in our blood vessels and arteries.  This in turn creates a blockade which makes it more difficult for blood to pass through and get to two very important parts of our body – our brain and….. our heart.

2.  Where does the bad cholesterol come from?

Ironically, our bodies naturally produce the stuff.  But, thanks to our ingenious Maker above we also have good cholesterol which helps remove it.  However, there is another source for bad cholesterol and this is where we actually have some control over it – it is our food.

3.  What foods give us this bad cholesterol that makes build up in our arteries and blood vessels which in turn make our hearts unhealthy?

Instead of citing specific foods and brands, what you really need to look at is the label.

Look for these three things:

  1. Trans fats.  Trans fats are bad.  Just admit it.  B-A-D.  Hydrogenated oils is one source of trans fats.  Tons of food products use this hydrogenated junk.   According to the FDA, a food company can list their trans fats as a nice fat zero if it is less than 1 %.  I’m not sure when .50 or .99 has become synonymous with 0.00, but that’s what happens when the FDA is in bed fooling around with the food companies.
  2. Saturated fats.  The MayoClinic have given the recommended daily value for sat fats as no less than 7% of our daily calories.   For a 2000 calorie diet – that is 15 grams.  Our bodies are not defenseless, but they shouldn’t be treated like landfills either.  They also attribute sat fats as a leading cause to coronary heart disease and raising blood cholesterol levels.
  3. Cholesterol. Cholesterol is important because it helps keep the structure of your cells in tact.  Our bodies naturally take care of that – but the extra cholesterol just creates fatty deposits and causes buildup in our arteries.

There are foods which help remove cholesterol thus keeping your arteries clean from this junky debris.  What are the foods?  Fruits and vegetables.  And I mean lots of them not just a bite of apple a day. Adding Omega-3 into your diet also helps with lowering cholesterol.  You can get this by eating the right kinds of fish (ie. salmon and tuna), or by taking cod liver oil (not just general fish oil) daily.

By avoiding foods which contain the above and instead eating foods which do NOT contain the above, you are therefore eating a heart healthy diet.  A good example is the Mediterranean Diet (or concept as I prefer to call it).  There are books galore about it at Amazon, and when it comes down to it – it isn’t hard to follow.

For myself, knowing what NOT to eat, makes it so much easier in figuring out what TO eat. Do I get it right all the time?  No.  I still eat candy bars and I still cook meat – but not every day or in large quantities. I balance the meal with lots of other food to compensate.

A few years ago, when my husband and I started educating ourselves on what is in our foods, such as hydrogenated oils, we did not throw everything out that had it.  But what we did do was stop buying anything that had it in the ingredient list.  Within a few months our kitchen and pantry did not contain one item with the stuff in it.   However, if it did have MSG, I tossed it.  I won’t mess with anything that directly

I won’t mess with anything that directly affects the health of my brain or creates an addiction such as  Aspartame, Splenda, MSG – it was gone. Just like smoking – you got to just stop – no half way.

Point is I didn’t go fanatical.  I just stopped buying the wrong things and replaced them with the right things.

As for my family member who has to start eating better, it is up to them to make the better choices.  They admit they eat too much of the wrong stuff and not enough of the right stuff.  They don’t exercise – even a simple walk.  I can only hope they start by taking simple small “steps” and work their way into a better health style.

In the end I give this one piece of advice…

Eat as if your heart depends on it.