By Jessica Brisson, PA-C, Salem Health Specialty Clinic – Cardiology
Believe it or not, what you eat can have a profound effect on your heart health at all stages of life. Whether you are already living with heart disease or are focused on prevention, following these straightforward tips could make all the difference.
A plate full of colorful fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk of many serious and chronic health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables has many advantages for better nutrition, because they are:
Having a plan can help you achieve health goals such as improving blood pressure and cholesterol and lowering your risk of stroke and heart attack.
But if your health isn’t reason enough, consider that having a week’s worth of meals mapped out ahead of time can also save money by streamlining your shopping list and making you less likely to resort to unhealthy fast food or takeout options.
Follow these four tips to make meal planning work for you:
Food has the power to lower both your cholesterol and blood pressure. Certain foods can also help decrease inflammation. Many experts recommend what is known as a Mediterranean diet. This diet is high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats. Try including more:
You should ensure you are getting about four servings of fruit per day and five servings of vegetables per day. Serving sizes are different for each food, but in general, the higher the fat or sugar content, the smaller the serving.
One serving of fruit is one whole apple or orange, or a handful of berries, or a quarter-cup of juice. With vegetables, a serving may be half a bell pepper, a large scoop of broccoli or half of a large potato.
If you struggle with serving sizes, charts listing serving sizes for thousands of foods are readily available online or in nutrition books. Or try a meal-tracking app on your smart phone for a convenient guide to servings and portions.
Storing food appropriately saves you money by reducing waste. It also protects you from a lot of unpleasant foodborne illnesses.
Generally your refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees F or lower.
Store vegetables and fruits separately — you can find guides online to help you know which foods prefer a cool, dry place like your pantry, and which are better off on the countertop or in the vegetable crisper.
Keep apples, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, onions, pears, potatoes and watermelon away from other produce, as they can affect how quickly other items ripen and rot.
Always refrigerate cut or peeled produce.
In the end, the most important part of eating for heart health is finding something that fits into your life. That way, you’re a lot more likely to stick with the plan. If making changes seems overwhelming or impossible, talk to your doctor or make an appointment with a registered dietitian for advice that’s personalized to your needs.If you’re interested in more simple, health-improving changes you can make to your routine, Salem Health’s Community Health Education Center is here to help with classes, support groups and educational materials. Call 503-814-2432 or visit www.salemhealth.org/chec.