Nutrition plays a major role in overall health and well-being. To improve heart health through dietary choices, it is essential to understand expert recommendations on what to consume and avoid. As we mark American Heart Month, know from a heart health dietitian ways to improve heart health through mindful eating.
According to Michelle Routhenstein, Preventive Cardiology Dietitian at EntirelyNourished.com, consuming a balanced, nutrient-sufficient, heart-healthy diet can significantly improve heart health.
“It works by lowering LDL cholesterol levels, managing blood pressure, promoting weight management, reducing inflammation and insulin resistance, and enhancing endothelial function. These dietary choices support overall cardiovascular well-being by addressing multiple risk factors associated with heart disease, ultimately reducing the likelihood of developing cardiovascular conditions and supporting long-term health,” Routhenstein told Medical Daily.
A heart-healthy diet involves consuming foods beneficial for cardiovascular well-being, while restricting those that could potentially lead to heart diseases. It focuses on making choices that support heart health and minimizing the intake of items that can negatively impact cardiovascular function.
Some examples of heart-healthy food and drinks include sardines, green tea, and flaxseeds. “Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, which can lower triglyceride levels, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health. Green tea contains catechins, potent antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and improve blood vessel function, contributing to heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Flaxseeds are heart-healthy due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignans. Lignans, specifically, are phytochemicals with antioxidant properties that may help reduce inflammation, improve blood vessel function, and possibly lower blood pressure, contributing to overall cardiovascular health,” Routhenstein said.
She recommends restricting the intake of high-fat dairy products, fatty meat cuts, and processed meats like bacon and sausage. This is because these foods contain high saturated fats, which have the potential to elevate LDL cholesterol levels. Increased LDL cholesterol can contribute to arterial stiffness by generating trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).
It is equally important to limit added sugars to the diet from sources like sugary beverages, candies, desserts, and processed foods. Excessive consumption of added sugars can lead to weight gain, inflammation, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, Routhenstein explained.
“Cutting back on excessive salt commonly found in processed and packaged foods, including canned soups, snacks, and condiments, is crucial to prevent elevated blood pressure, a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” she added.