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Get on heart-healthy diet

Get on heart-healthy diet
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Don’t get caught up in the trends – Trendy ‘healthy’ food options such as coconut sugar and agave syrup might have some small benefits over refined...

A well-balanced diet is an important part of maintaining your overall health, but it is a vital part of maintaining your heart health. Your heart has a large responsibility in pumping blood throughout your body and it cannot function without the right nutrients to keep it going.

So many conditions that are related to your heart's function, like hypertension and high cholesterol, are tied to what you put inside your body. The best approach is to focus on getting healthy foods as often as you can.

Here are some tips to help women maintain good heart health through nutrition.

Up the Omega 3s – Omega 3s have several benefits and can be found in fatty fish like salmon, trout and sardines.

If you're not a fish lover, you can still get omega 3s from other healthy foods such as walnuts, flax seeds and milk from grass fed cows.

♦ Opt for real foods over supplements – Short on nutrients? Instead of picking up an over-the-counter supplement, opt for a whole-food option.

For example, if you need vitamin C, an orange will give you that along with fiber and vitamin B1, giving you more bang for your buck.

♦ Don't get caught up in the trends – Trendy 'healthy' food options such as coconut sugar and agave syrup might have some small benefits over refined white sugar, but that does not make them healthy.

Remember to eat everything in moderation and not to get too caught up in what is popular.

♦ Simplify your choices – Focus on one-ingredient foods such as fresh veggies, fruits, all-natural nut and seed butters, unsalted raw nuts and seeds, plain yogurt, eggs and whole grains such as quinoa, farro or steel cut oats instead of processed foods.

Doing so not only simplifies nutrition, but it also helps to keep sodium and sugar consumption levels in check.

♦ Plan in advance – It's easy to reach for a sodium-packed bag of chips or a croissant filled with hydrogenated oils when you're in the mood for a snack.

But planning your snacks ahead of time can help you make better choices. Try packing some veggies and home-made hummus for a savory snack or yogurt and frozen berries for a sweet one.

♦ Increase your soluble fiber intake — While fiber is beneficial in general, soluble fiberin particular is good for lowering LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which is your bad cholesterol.

You can find fiber in foods such as oatmeal, vegetables and legumes.

♦ Control your portion sizes — Restaurant meals often come in large portion sizes which can make it easy to overeat and subsequently gain weight.

Remember that your protein should be about the size of your palm, your starches and/or carbohydrates should be the size of your first. Save any leftovers for another meal.

♦ Find a balance – Nobody can be expected to abstain from all unhealthy foods! Aim to eat healthy foods 80 per cent of the time, and not worry about the remaining 20 per cent.

Good health is about living the healthiest life you can enjoy, not the healthiest life you can tolerate.

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