Healthy eating habits that lead to a healthy heart

February is Heart Month and part of that celebration calls for promoting healthy changes that can lead to a heart-healthy lifestyle. One of the most important choices that we can all make it about the food that we decide to prepare, eat and serve to our families.

Holly Dykstra, a registered dietitian at Spectrum Health, talks about healthy eating for heart health and Spectrum Health’s Preventive Cardiology program.

The Spectrum Health Preventive Cardiology is a multidisciplinary program that incorporates a Cardiologist, APP, Psychologist, and other healthcare professionals. Overall, the program seeks to engage both health care professionals and community members in the importance of heart-healthy lifestyles which includes food as a tool in achieving optimal health.

Armed with expertise on behavior change, mindfulness, plant-based nutrition, obesity, and chronic disease management, the culinary medicine team is dedicated to evolving and elevating the current conversation about nutrition. This includes removing the distractions of fad diets and focusing on the hard science of a well-balanced diet.

Recent studies show that for adults both young and old, eating a nutritious, plant-based diet may lower the risk for heart attacks and other types of cardiovascular disease.

Those who eat a more beneficial, plant-centered diet, with fewer foods considered adverse, have been shown to be 50% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease as they age. Based on what is known about their link to cardiovascular disease risk, foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains are considered beneficial. A healthy diet can have an impact on whether or not we develop high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or metabolic disorder, all of which have links to heart disease.

Here are more foods that are good for heart health:

  • All fish are good for you, but fattier fish are especially good.
  • Salmon, white fish, mackerel and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Omega-3s can decrease your triglycerides and lower your blood pressure, and they have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils—whatever your taste, beans are loaded with goodness; dried beans are ideal, but even canned beans with no salt are good.
  • You’re still getting fiber, the bean’s best material, and plenty of B vitamins and iron. Beans are also a plant-based protein source.
  • Whole grains: If you’re buying bread or pasta, look for the first ingredient on the bag. If it’s labeled enriched, skip it. If it’s “whole grains” or “whole wheat,” buy it.
  • Ultra-dark fruits, vegetables: Dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard and spinach have loads of fiber and antioxidant properties, and they’re an excellent source of iron, magnesium and vitamins such as A, K and C, the latter of which is especially prime for cardiovascular health.
  • Berries are particularly good for heart health—blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. They have antioxidants and tons of fiber compared to other fruit, and they’re low in calories.
  • Leaner meats: Skinless poultry should be your first choice for lean meats as a protein source, but red meats are OK in moderation.
  • Beware of hidden sugars, sodium, coconut oil.

People may be a candidate for the Preventive Cardiology program if they have any of the following:

  • Known heart disease
  • Multiple risk factors for heart disease
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Stress management
  • Eating disorders
  • Nutrition therapy
  • Women’s cardiovascular health
  • Difficulty controlling high blood pressure or cholesterol levels

To learn more visit: Spectrum Health Preventative Cardiology