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Four dietary changes you can make to protect your heart

by , 28 August 2015

You might already know that eating certain foods (like fatty bacon and salty soups) can increase your risk of heart disease. And it's often tough to get out of those kinds of eating habits, right? Right!

Whether you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt or simply want to fine-tune your diet, here are some great heart-healthy eating tips.

Once you know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit, you'll be well on your way toward a heart-healthy diet…

Four diet tips for a healthy heart

#1: Don't overload your plate
How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs.
 
Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods. This strategy can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.
 
Keep track of the number of servings you eat. A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. For example, one serving of pasta is 1/2 cup, or about the size of a hockey puck. A serving of meat, fish or chicken is about 2 to 3 ounces, or about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. Judging serving size is a learned skill. You may need to use measuring cups and spoons or a scale until you're comfortable with your judgment.
 
#2: Up your fruit and vegetable intake
Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fibre. Vegetables and fruits contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.

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Featuring vegetables and fruits in your diet can be easy. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Keep fruit in a bowl in your kitchen so that you'll remember to eat it. Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as the main ingredients, such as vegetable stir-fry or fresh fruit mixed into salads.
 
#3: Opt for whole grains
Whole grains are good sources of fibre and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. Or be adventuresome and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain faro, quinoa or barley.
 
#4: Limit bad fats
Limiting how much saturated and trans-fats you eat is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a build-up of plaques in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

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Editor’s note: Interested in learning more about how to keep your heart healthy? Our researchers at the Natural Health Dossier have got you covered! Go here and join today - it'll only take two minutes.

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