Author: Samantha Thiessen, MHSc, RD, Halton Healthcare Cardiac Rehab Clinical Dietitian
1. Eat Your Veggies
: We have long known that eating more plant-based foods, like fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes decreases our risk for developing heart disease and type 2 Diabetes. Many large scale studies have shown decreased levels of lousy LDL cholesterol, better blood fat levels, better blood pressure numbers, better blood sugar management and overall better weight control. The bottom line is that most of us could stand to eat more vegetables and we all know they’re good for us. So, start by finding a way to bump up the veggie content in your diet.
2. Skip Fruit Juice and Eat the Fruit
: While 100% fruit juice is full of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium and disease-fighting antioxidants, it lacks fibre. Fibre helps slow the rate of absorption of sugars and contributes to a feeling of satiety (fullness). Eating pieces of fruit will provide that valuable fibre without sacrificing taste and will ease up on the number of calories you consume. Pick pieces of fruit over juice, it’ll give you more bang for your calorie buck.
3. Put Fish on the Menu, Regularly
: Fish is a rich source of crucial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats have been shown in numerous studies to improve a lot of important cardiac markers including decreasing the build-up of cholesterol on blood vessel walls, improving levels of blood fats called triglycerides, decreasing inflammation and decreasing the risk of arrhythmias (altered heart rhythms). This is a big deal! Include fish twice a week to reap the benefits. For the non-fish eaters, include plant-based omega-3’s, such as ground flax seed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and soy-based foods like tofu, and edamame.
4. Embrace Legumes
: Legumes are protein-rich, plant-based foods that include dried beans and lentils. These little powerhouse foods consistently decrease the risk for heart disease largely because of its cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre and its lack of saturated fat. A recent study found nuts and legumes decreased risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Take some time to get to know legumes a little better. Their low saturated fat, high fibre, high protein features alone should convince you. So, pull out a cookbook or search the internet for inspiration on how to include legumes in your diet.
5. Eggs Are Allowed
: Any time we hear about lowering cholesterol, most of us automatically think of eggs’ high cholesterol content. This has been a long held belief: that eggs cause high blood levels of cholesterol. Let’s set the record straight – they are not directly responsible for bumping up your bad LDL cholesterol levels. For now, you can happily include a moderate number of whole eggs (including the yolk) in your diet (excluding eggs in baking) (about 2-4 eggs/week) but be sure to watch the less healthy add-ons like bacon, sausage, hash browns or Hollandaise sauce.