Not only is a heart-healthy diet good for your heart but it can also help you lose weight. Heart-healthy diets generally consists of eating less sodium, fat and cholesterol and eating more fruits, vegetables, poultry, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. A heart-healthy diet program also stresses adding exercise much as a regular weight-loss program does. Not only can you lose weight on a heart-healthy diet, you also lower your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
What is a Heart-Healthy Diet?
A heart-healthy diet involves reducing the amount of saturated and trans fat, cholesterol and sodium in your diet. Saturated and trans fat are the main culprits in raising your cholesterol and placing you at risk of coronary heart disease. Cholesterol also raises your blood cholesterol and too much sodium in the diet can cause blood pressure to rise. A heart-healthy diet focuses on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, legumes, lean meats, poultry and seeds and nuts. Unsaturated fats are also included in limited quantities.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet as a way to lower blood pressure and eat heart-healthy. In fact, they also state that the DASH diet can help you lose weight if you lower the amount of calories you eat to each day. Because the DASH diet offers a variety of foods, it is more likely you will be able to maintain this diet for life.
What about Other Heart-Healthy Diets?
One study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that four different heart-healthy diets that also reduced calorie intake helped the participants lose weight. The four diets used had varying amounts of fat, protein and carbohydrates and the 811 overweight or obese participants were given a calorie count that coincided with their daily activity level. The participants were also instructed to exercise at least 90 minutes each week and were also involved in both individual and group counseling. The study participants lost an average of 13 pounds in six months and reduced their waist size by one to three inches. After two years, the participants maintained a weight loss average of nine pounds. Even though they participated in different types of heart-healthy diets, they all lost weight and were able to keep most of the weight off. In addition, the participants reduced triglyceride, LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure levels while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Eating a heart-healthy diet is good for everyone whether or not you are at risk for heart disease or are overweight. Eating a heart-healthy diet will allow you to enjoy many of the foods you already love, in moderation, while maintaining a healthy heart and a healthy weight.
Mayo Clinic “DASH diet: Health eating to lower your blood pressure”
National Institutes of Health “Heart-Healthy, Reduced-Calorie Diets Promote Long-term Weight Loss”