No matter what your age, eating well should always be a priority. Picking foods that are both rich in nutrients and delicious can sometimes be a challenge. And there is a lot of confusing information about what is a healthy meal and what is not.
Do not fret. There are simple rules to help you when shopping for heart-healthy foods and easy, nutritious meals you can prepare with ingredients you may already own.
Fruits and Berries
Natural sugars from fruits and berries are much better for you than processed, sugary treats and desserts. Many of the most common fruits are low in calories and are sources of under-consumed nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, and dietary fiber.
The nutrients found in fruit can help you maintain an overall healthy diet. Dietary fiber helps contribute to digestion, potassium helps your body maintain healthy blood pressure, folic acid helps your body form red blood cells, and vitamin C assists your skin and dental health.
If you tend to have a sweet tooth, reach for an apple or have a bowl of melons instead.
Like fruits, vegetables are low in calories and high in important nutrients that help your body stay healthy. Many veggies are high in potassium, fiber, and vitamins A and C, all of which significantly contribute to the function and health of your body.
By adding a consistent serving of vegetables to your daily diet, you can help your body reduce the risk of heart disease, protect yourself against certain cancers, and fight off obesity and diabetes.
If you’re craving a snack, try slicing up a fresh pepper, roasting some carrots, or steaming a head of broccoli.
For many years it was believed that all fat intake was bad to you. However, research over the last two decades has shown that adding fat to your diet is not bad across the board. The picture is much more complicated. Some fats are bad, while others can actually contribute to your overall health.
In general, vegetable, nut, and seed oils—such as olive oil, grape seed oil, and avocado oil—tend to be healthier than animal oils—such as lard and butter. Animal oil substitutes like margarine tend to have less fat but could also contain other chemicals that can diminish their healthiness.
Rather than using a creamy or sugary salad dressing, try dressing your greens with some olive oil.
When it comes to animal proteins such as beef, pork, and chicken, it’s important to pay attention to the amount of fat you’re consuming in each sitting. In general, a thin portion of chicken will contain less fat than a hearty steak or round of bacon—both beef and pork tend to be higher in fats that can contribute to higher cholesterol levels, which can greatly affect heart health.
Choosing fish over red meat can also help boost your heart health. Not only is fish filled with healthier fats, like omega-3s, but it also contains other nutrients that help you stay healthy. While eating a lot of seafood and fish can increase your exposure to mercury, a heavy metal found in seafood, the health benefits outweigh the risks.
Nuts and beans are also a good source of protein. Not only do they contain less fat than meat, but they also are packed with a good amount of dietary fiber and can help stabilize your metabolism.
Instead of having a beef burger, try a black bean burger. Or if you’re craving steak, try a piece of salmon.
Having grains in your diet is an easy way to add dietary fiber. But not all grains have the same nutrient package. White bread tends to lack the fiber and vitamins present in whole grain and seeded bread options.
Whole grains contain several vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and selenium. These nutrients can help lower your risk of digestion issues and heart disease. In addition, a healthy balance of whole grains can help boost your bone and muscle health and assist your immune system.
Instead of a slice of white bread with butter, try adding a whole wheat slice of toast with small amount of olive oil.
A Balanced Diet
In general, eating as much raw or unprocessed food as possible will contribute greatly to your overall diet. However, barring any health restrictions, you do not have to cut out all sugary or fatty foods from your diet altogether. By practicing healthy habits and keeping all vices in moderation, you can maintain a happy and healthy balance.