Small Diet Changes, Big Heart Benefits
When you’re living with coronary artery disease (CAD), eating healthy can feel daunting. But a diet change doesn’t have to be drastic for it to have an impact. Small tweaks can go a long way in helping your health. Here’s how to get started.
Focus on real foods
Eating “heart-healthy” doesn’t mean you have to eliminate entire food groups. To prevent cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, the research findings are clear: Cut back on highly processed foods.
Salty snacks, sugary drinks, store-bought bread, protein bars. These are all examples of highly processed foods. Delicious? Yes. But these kinds of foods are also linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—health issues that make CAD worse.
Swapping processed foods with nutrient-dense ones will give your body more vitamins, minerals, and other components that will help protect your health. Focus on choosing foods closer to their natural state. Here are a few suggestions:
Instead of buying flavored yogurt, add fresh fruit to plain yogurt.
Instead of getting store-bought guacamole, slice a whole avocado.
Instead of having packaged chips, munch on unsalted nuts or seeds.
Instead of eating chicken breast slices from the deli, roast a chicken breast.
The good news: Eating heart-healthy is not an all-or-nothing diet. You don’t have to give up highly processed foods completely. Instead, make them a special treat. The goal is to find a balance that works for you and your health goals.
Rethink your drink
When it comes to your heart, fluids are your friend. Staying hydrated goes a long way in keeping your heart pumping efficiently. Your daily goal should be about 6 to 8 cups (for women) or 8 to 12 cups (for men).
But choose your drink wisely. Avoid processed beverages like sodas and sports drinks. Go for water instead—it is, and always will be, the best option. And if you want to drink alcohol, limit yourself. That means no more than one glass a day for women and two for men. Overindulging might be fun in the moment. But in the end, it’s not worth the long-term risks to your blood pressure and heart.
The bottom line: Making small changes to your diet can go a long way. If you have any questions about whether a food or drink is good for your heart health, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian. They can provide personalized recommendations to support your heart-healthy journey.