A Heart-Healthy Diet That's Good For Your Waistline

by Charlene Flanagan

If you look beyond the numbers on the scale, you will soon realize that a healthy lifestyle which includes light and nutritious foods, coupled with some daily activity can do your body a great deal of good. Now, while we've talked about workouts and yoga routines that keep your heart in great health, today we focus on the flipside—the dietary aspect.

Simply put, the better the functioning of your cardiovascular the system, the fewer your risks for heart disease, blood pressure, angina pains, strokes, and many such conditions. A good way to approach and embrace this change is to club your weight watching meal plan with a heart-healthy diet so that you've got yourself covered in terms of nutrition, and the number on the scale.

This #HeartMonth, we caught up with Rebecca Lewis, registered dietitian of HelloFresh.com for some advice on how to get with the plan:

Increase Fiber
Fiber is beneficial to heart health because it slows down the absorption of food in our stomachs, which prevents spikes in our blood sugar, and helps to keep us full for longer so we’re less likely to snack throughout the day. Moreover, the foods with the most fiber also contain nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health.

Where Can I Find The Right Kind Of Fiber?

  • Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. About 1/2 of your grains should be whole grains = about 1 cup cooked.
  • Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals that help prevent cardiovascular disease. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. The recommendation is to eat 5.5 cups of fruits and veggies each day.

Rules To Play By

  • Swap out refined and overly processed grains for whole grains. These include brown rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur, buckwheat, farro, wheat berries, whole wheat breads, whole wheat pastas, etc.
  • Use the 10:1 rule: For every 10g of carbs, make sure there is 1g of fiber.
  • Keep washed and cleaned fruit in the front aisle of the fridge (at eye level) so that you feel inclined to grab it when a craving strikes.
  • When plating your dinner, make half your plate fruits and the other half veggies; don't make fruits an afterthought.

Weight Watcher, Tread With Caution
If you’re looking at heart-healthy weight loss meal plans, a low-carb wins over a low-fat diet. Your body needs healthy fats for smooth functioning. Kristie LeBeau, a registered dietitian and nutritionist (RDN) says, "On a weight-loss diet, many people get too little good fats in their diet. Fat contains a lot of calories, so if people are trying to lower their calories, they may cut out fat.

This may be counter-productive because the right kind of fats keep you feeling full longer and can help promote healthy cholesterol levels. Good fats include monounsaturated fat found in olives, avocados and nuts, and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats, found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

In terms of what to avoid, I would say stay away from refined carbohydrates like added sugar and white flour, because these will increase triglycerides and promote inflammation in the body. Also, avoid trans-fat which is typically found in processed baked goods and some margarine, because these increase LDL ("bad cholesterol") and lower HDL ("good cholesterol")."

It's a fine line one needs to walk when they're trying to watch their weight while also keeping their heart healthy. Chalk out a meal plan with a certified nutritionist or dietitian who will help you include heart-healthy fats that won't impact your waistline. And of course, keep the tips we've given you at the back of your mind to make better food choices every day.

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