An older couple smiles at the camera. The man stands behind the woman, arms over her shoulders, and makes a heart symbol with his hands.

A Healthy Heart Starts With a Healthy Diet

A heart-healthy diet aims to eat foods that help obtain or maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels and contains the right balance of nutrients to help you thrive! 

Get to Know the Six Essential Nutrients

Eating the right foods gives your body the nutrients it needs to maintain good health and provide energy. Nutrients provide your body with nourishment, essential growth and maintenance of life. 

Six essential nutrients are needed to maintain good overall health: Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fat, Water, Vitamins and Minerals.

Proteins play a critical role in your body. They are your body’s workhorse; they do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and dairy are good protein sources.

Fats or fatty acids are essential to give your body energy and support cell function. They store energy, insulate us and protect our vital organs. Fats can be found in red meat, chicken skin, dairy and various oils.

There are four types of fats in food:

  1. Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry and dairy products. Saturated fats can cause problems with cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease. 
  2. Transfats are a type of unsaturated fat that occurs in foods. Primarily found in processed foods like frozen pizza, conned soup and cakes. 
  3. Monosaturated fat is another type of unsaturated fat. This fat can benefit your heart when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated and transfat. Monosaturated fats can be found in avocados, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans. 
  4. Polyunsaturated fat is one of the healthy fats. It can benefit your heart when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated fat and trans fat. They are found mainly in fatty fish, plant-based oils and nuts. 

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugar molecules. Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are among the three primary nutrients in foods and drinks. Carbs come in the form of simple and complex. 

  1. Complex carbohydrates enter the bloodstream slowly and provide long-term energy. Complex carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grains, oats and quinoa. These types of carbs are healthier and needed for overall nutrition. 
  2. Simple carbohydrates enter the bloodstream quickly and provide fast-short-term energy. Simple carbohydrates include candy, soft drinks, fruit juices made from concentrate, table sugar and corn syrup.

Water is an essential nutrient and has various critical roles in the body. It regulates your body temperature, maintains vital tissue, protects body organs, lubricates joints, helps flush waste, and carries other nutrients to your cells. 

Vitamins are substances our bodies need to develop and function normally. Most of our vitamins come from food. 

Minerals are elements on the earth and in foods that our bodies need to develop and function normally. Those essential for health include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, chromium, copper, fluoride, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. Minerals can be found in meat, cereals, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables and nuts. 

Diet Dos And Don’ts To Feeding a Healthy Heart

Do Eat:

  • Complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread, rice, and pasta).
  • High-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains).
  • Foods low in fat and cholesterol-free (low-fat dairy products, lean meat, poultry, and fish).
  • Five or more servings of green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, citrus fruits, etc.) daily.
  • Foods seasoned with herbs, spices, herbed vinegar, and fruit juices instead of salt.

Don’t Eat:

Foods that are high in sodium:

  • Canned and instant soups, instant noodles, pickles, olives and dips
  • High-salt sauces and seasonings, including tomato sauce, stock cubes, soy sauce and prepackaged seasonings
  • Processed and cured meats, such as ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and canned meat

Foods that are high in fat:

  • Red meat, which is high in saturated fat and can cause high cholesterol
  • High-fat foods like fast food and takeouts, such as hamburgers, pizza, potato chips and fried food
  • Butter/margarine; use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats like olive, canola, avocado, and vegetable oils instead.

Foods that are high in calories:

  • Beverages, such as sports drinks and sodas
  • High-calorie foods, such as sugary snacks and refined grains, such as white bread

At Elderplan, we value the health and wellness of our members. Knowing the basics about specific health conditions may help you be more aware of the risk factors to look for.

If you are an Elderplan Member and need help to manage heart disease, contact Member Services; you may benefit from the Elderplan/HomeFirst Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Management Program.

 If you are not a Member, please explore our health plan options to see if there is a plan that may suit your needs. 

Additional Resources

Food and Nutrition

Lower your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by learning about nutrition and the foods that keep you healthy!

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