Heart disease has a huge impact on Americans. Nearly half of us are at risk for heart disease, and one in every four deaths is caused by it—making heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States.
The good news: what we eat can help decrease our risk of heart disease or help us manage an existing condition. One organization that supports this approach to better heart health is the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation. As part of its Healthy Hearts initiative, the foundation has partnered with Project Angel Heart to fund deliveries of medically tailored meals for people living with cardiovascular disease.
Our heart-healthy meals are helping people with heart disease manage their symptoms and improve their health. Want to improve your health and/or decrease your risk of heart disease? Here are three simple guidelines that can help:
1. Eat Plenty of Fiber
Fiber acts like a sponge in your intestines, absorbing cholesterol from your diet so it won’t be recirculated in your bloodstream. Whole grains, beans, and fruits and vegetables (with the skin on) are good sources of fiber. Here are a few good options:
- Brown rice
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole wheat bread
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
- Beans and legumes
2. Eat Heart-Healthy Fats
- Olive oil
- Nuts & natural nut butters
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
3. Eat Less Salt
Eating too much salt can increase blood pressure, which puts unnecessary stress on our hearts.
Nearly 75 percent of the sodium found in a typical American diet comes from processed foods, so the easiest way to reduce the amount of salt you consume is by eliminating processed and packaged foods. When you do buy processed food, look for low sodium or salt-free versions.
And when you cook at home? A good pinch of salt is certainly okay every now and then, but take advantage of other ways to create flavor, too. You’ll use less salt when you cook with:
- Fresh and dried herbs
- Lemon/lime juice
- Salt-free seasoning blends
Meghan Perkins is Project Angel Heart’s registered dietitian. After a semester studying baking and pastry arts at culinary school, Meghan quickly found her passion for clinical nutrition and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado to earn her bachelor’s degree in dietetics. Meghan has worked in clinical and private practice settings, educating patients about how their food choices impact their health with an emphasis on CKD, diabetes, heart disease, celiac disease, and weight management. In her free time, Meghan enjoys exploring Denver by bike with her husband, trying new coffee and tea shops, hiking in Crested Butte, and relaxing with her dog Barney.
Kevin Giles is Project Angel Heart’s modified meals assistant. Kevin grew up in Dallas, Texas, where he spent most of his time working in kitchens and attending a technical high school that taught culinary arts. In 2011, Kevin made the move to Denver to attend Johnson & Wales, and graduated with his degree in culinary nutrition in 2015. Kevin enjoys spending time snuggling with his two cats and going to the gym.