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Published on April 21, 2017

A Healthy Plate & Happy Heart

With heart disease being the number-one killer of both men and women in the U.S., it might seem to be an inevitable fate for you or your loved ones.

Not so!

In fact, a balanced diet – something completely within your control -- is one of the most important factors in fostering heart health.

Lauren Christensen, registered dietitian and licensed medical nutrition therapist at Bryan LifePointe, explains how you can reduce controllable risk factors of heart disease through proper diet and nutrition.

“First and foremost, what people might not realize is that eighty percent of heart disease is preventable,” says Christensen. “Now, you might be thinking, ‘Okay. That’s good, right? We can control this. We can do something about preventing this.’ But, it’s also kind of scary because we are still seeing those devastating numbers.”

Finding Balance: Not All Carbs Are Created Equal

Christensen’s goal with clients is to teach them that they can still enjoy foods they love, while creating balance by adding in fruit, vegetables and nutrient-dense foods.

Healthy doesn’t mean bland and tasteless. A “beige plate” is neither healthy nor appealing.

Focus on a variety of fruits and vegetables, getting a nice blend of color throughout your day. Whole grains are high in fiber, which keeps you feeling fuller longer.

“Whole grains get a bad rap,” says Christensen. “People think carbohydrates need to be completely cut out, but your body actually needs carbohydrates for energy.”

Portion Control: Get a Smaller Plate

“Overall, our portions have ballooned over the past few decades,” explains Christensen. “Unfortunately, we see some of that shift in our waistlines, too. I really encourage my clients to be mindful of what they are eating.”

Focusing on your food – the taste, the look – will help you feel satisfied rather than deprived. Distracted eating (like while watching TV) leads to mindless overeating.

Cut Down on Salt, Not Taste

Sodium is a huge factor when it comes to heart health. Keeping under 2300 milligrams of sodium per day will reduce risk for hypertension and high blood pressure.

“I think it’s safe to assume that we all know somebody who reaches for the salt shaker prior to even tasting their food,” says Christensen. “That would be one of my first tips. Always sample your food first. You can always add a little bit of salt or other seasonings to enhance the flavor profile without going overboard.”

Herbs, spices, or fresh-squeezed lime or lemon juice can add an incredible amount of zest to a meal.

Dropping Pounds: Less Stress on the Heart

Eating a balanced diet and decreasing calories by making healthy, nutrient-dense choices for meals and snacks will help you lose weight.

Exercise is also important. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week to help with weight management. Find something you enjoy doing, because then you’ll actually do it.

Be Aware of What You’re Eating, But Don’t Obsess

Journaling your food intake can be an effective tool, but some individuals get carried away.

“I’ll tell my clients to try journaling for a couple of weeks,” explains Christensen. “Once you start keeping track, you are much more mindful of what you’re putting in your body. Over time, you will gradually and naturally opt for healthier options, and you won’t have to write down every move you make.”

If you find yourself measuring lettuce, put down the food scale!

The Wrap-Up

“You can definitely make steps and changes, even small changes, to really improve or reduce the risk for heart disease,” says Christensen. “Being mindful of your weight and taking steps to reduce weight if overweight or obese is one of the first areas you need to look at. It doesn’t mean you have to give up foods that taste great. You can still build a really healthy plate that is flavorful. Focusing on those lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains is really going to be your best tool to help reduce heart disease risk.”

For more information you can go to bryanlifepointe.com.


To listen to an interview with Lauren Christensen, registered dietician and licensed medical nutrition therapist at Bryan LifePointe, follow this link:
A Healthy Plate and Happy Heart

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