Friends and family are always asking me how can they attain a healthy heart and life. My answer has always been, make better food choices. We are what we eat, what we eat becomes our blood, cells, thoughts and every thing else that creates who we are and the quality of our health. So in essence, a heart healthy diet is a good habit to form if your goal is to have a healthy ticker.
A heart healthy diet is low in refined sugar and sweeteners, low in sodium, low in trans fats, and high in better choices of food, including nutrient-dense vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and whole grains. This is good for anyone with Lupus or without Lupus to maintain a healthy heart. (If you suffer from gut challenges cut back on grains that contain gluten).
Get rid of sugar! The latest research continues to show that sugar causes inflammation; suppresses the immune system; a big No, No if you are suffering from Lupus and think you may have a heart condition. Sugar is also a leading contributor to obesity and adult-onset diabetes; and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Sodium is another heart concern; consuming too much salt can increase our risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
One of the things I recommend is flavoring foods with better alternatives to sugar and salt. Try a few of these food flavoring tweaks in your own meals!
- When recipes call for sugar, try chopped dates, raw honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup.
- Instead of salt, try chopped onions, garlic, Braggs liquid aminos, kelp granules or triple blend flakes.
- Ditch the salt shaker for “better” choices, including herbs and spices. There are dozens to select — from Italian flavorings such as rosemary, thyme and basil; ground spices such as cayenne and chili powder; or simple additions that pack a lot of flavor, such as cumin and lemon pepper.
- Pack a punch health benefits by using natural anti-inflammatories such as fresh ginger or ground turmeric instead of salt.
- To flavor fish, vegetables and salads, try citrus — lemon, lime and orange are great complements to fresh foods and taste super yummy!
- Use a tablespoon or two of citrus juice, or for a more intense flavor, try a teaspoon of finely grated citrus zest.
- Drink flavored water instead of soda, sport drinks and energy drinks. Use citrus juice or add blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, or watermelon! You’ll have a sweet and healthy alternative.
- Other heart healthy tips for your daily diet include adding more fiber to your diet with whole grains, fruits and leafy greens; and including healthy fats in each meal, such as nuts, flax and chia seeds, olive oil, and avocado
- And don’t forget to take Probiotics! 80% of our immune system is in the gut. You want to keep it healthy.
All of these changes might sound a little overwhelming. I encourage you to make one little change at a time. Small steps lead to big changes. If you need support making healthy changes, I’m here to help you make better alternatives and support you on your health journey. One conversation and change your life forever!