Maintaining a healthy heart is important, and you should take steps to remain in peak condition. Eating well and obtaining regular exercise is a great way to stay in shape. You can also help to boost your heart, lower your blood pressure and stress by stopping smoking and being more aware of what you eat.
Fruit and vegetables
Given that vegetables and fruit are low in calories and fat, you should be looking to enjoy these on a regular basis. There is a lot to be said for enjoying five portions of fruit and veg in a day. This can be implemented easily because fruit and veg make for a quick and easy snack. There is a wide variety of vegetables and fruit on offer and you can enjoy frozen, fresh, canned and dried fruit and veg. It is even possible to enjoy fruit or vegetable juice as part of your five a day requirements.
A lot of fruit and vegetable packaging will state how much of a person’s 5-a-day they provide. When it comes to determining what counts as one portion in your 5-a-day, a lot depends on the size of your fruit or vegetable. An apple will consist of one portion by itself while you will need to enjoy a handful of grapes to obtain one portion. With large fruit like melon, a slice should be enough to provide you with one of your five a day whereas you need to enjoy two plums to obtain one portion.
Fruit juice or dried fruit, no matter how much you consume, will only ever count to one of your 5-a-day, as it is best to not have too much of these products.
Filling up on veg and fruit can help you to feel full but it is important to ensure that you don’t use an abundance of sauces or dressings to accompany your vegetables as this will increase the calorie count of your meal or snack.
Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
These foods are essential because they are low in fat and they provide you with energy. If you are looking to fill yourself up without consuming too many calories, this is definitely a great way to bulk up your plate, but do so with care. Ensure you choose lower fat options, such as skimmed milk, when you enjoy porridge oats or cereals. You will also want to minimise the amount of butter or spreads that you use on toast or bread. If you are cooking pasta, the healthier option is to opt for a tomato style sauce as opposed to a creamy sauce.
The preparation of your food is also important. If you are enjoying potatoes, yams or sweet potatoes, leave their jackets on and try to boil or mash them, as opposed to chipping them and then roasting them in oil. You should look to maintain a balance of bread, rice, pasta and potatoes in your diet but you should be cautious which products you enjoy alongside them. While these foods are healthy, it is often the sauces or creams that cause people to gain weight while enjoying these foods
Fish, meat and alternatives
Meat, fish and alternatives such as nuts, eggs and pulses provide minerals, iron and protein making them an important part of a balanced diet. These are all great additions, but they are to be enjoyed in moderation in comparison to fruits and vegetables.
It is sensible to include a range of pulses and beans such as lentils, dahl, chickpeas and kidney beans. Try adding them to meals like curries, salads, casseroles and soup to enjoy the numerous benefits without them taking centre stage.
You should aim to eat two portions of fish on a weekly basis and at least one of these portions should be a fish that is rich in oil such as salmon, fresh tuna or even mackerel. Although people's needs vary, there are a number of things to consider when judging portion size. With red or white meat you should aim for around 80 grams. Around 100 to 150g of cooked white fish or oily fish is a good portion size.
In terms of alternatives, 1 or 2 eggs should considered a single portion. When considering pulses and beans, 3 tablespoons is about right whereas with nuts (or peanut butter) 2 tablespoons is sensible.
Milk and dairy foods
You should bear in mind that dairy products, including milk, are a great source of calcium and a brilliant way to ensure you get your daily recommended levels of calcium. However, there are different dairy products to choose from and you should always look to opt for the low fat version if you can, including skimmed milk or cottage cheese. A healthy snack can be a low fat yoghurt with chopped fruit and why not use a plain yoghurt in a recipe instead of using cream.
You should find that a standard portion consists of 200ml of milk, 30g of hard cheese, 150g of yoghurt or two tablespoons of cottage cheese.
High fat food and drinks
Food and drinks which are high in fat are not conducive to a healthy diet. You should look to reduce your intake of soft drinks, sweets, chocolate, pies, cakes, biscuits and crisps if you’re looking to lead the healthiest life possible.
Small but crucial changes can make a huge difference. Why not try some fruit or a yoghurt that is low in fat instead of enjoying a pastry or chocolate bar. If you are looking for dressings, rather than opting for a dressing that contains salad cream, mayo or a lot of oil, try fat-free or low-fat options. You may even find that lemon or lime juice will provide you with a tastier and healthier alternative.
Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fats
You will likely have heard about saturated and unsaturated fats but do you know the difference between them? Saturated fats will raise the levels of cholesterol in your blood, which may well lead to an increased risk of heart disease. This is why you should look to minimise the consumption of foods like coconuts, palm oil, biscuits, cakes, pies, full-fat dairy products, the skin of poultry, meat that is high in fat, lard and butter.
You should look to choose unsaturated fats, as these can help to lower your blood pressure. Mono-unsaturated fats can be found in walnut oils, spreads, rapeseed, avocados and olives while poly-unsaturated fats can be found in soya, sunflower and corn oils.
Many simple swaps can help you eat healthily You should swap full-fat milk for skimmed milk, butter for sunflower spreads, cream for reduced fat cream, hard cheese for cottage cheese, chicken thighs with their skin on for chicken breast that has had the skin removed, pork belly and mince for lean mince and pork steaks.
You will find that bread, pasta and rice can be of benefit to you but you need to opt for wholegrain or brown options as opposed to white bread. You should also look to cut out fried snacks and salt (you should aim to eat less than 6g of salt per day), which can be replaced by rice cakes, vegetable sticks.
There are foods like prawns, liver and eggs that are recognised as being high in cholesterol. However, there is no real evidence to suggest that the cholesterol in these foods will have any notable impact on the cholesterol level of your blood. This is why it is far more crucial to focus on the reduction of foods that have a high level of unsaturated fats.
Choosing the right products
When it comes to eating properly, there are a number of products that you want to add to your shopping list. Products such as porridge oats or wholegrain breakfast cereals can make a massive difference to getting your day off to the best possible start. In fact, wholegrain, rye or granary breads are very important when it comes to eating healthily. Similarly, you will find that brown rice or whole-wheat pasta is ideal when it comes to eating properly.
You should stock up on as much fruit and vegetables as you can and there is flexibility here. You can enjoy tinned fruit, canned fruit, fresh fruit, frozen fruit, fruit juice and even dried fruit. You should find that there are plenty of ways for you to eat healthily with fruit and veg and choosing a wide variety will ensure you get the most benefit you can.
Try to choose lean meat like extra-lean mince or chicken with the skin removed. When it comes to fish, oily fish and fish like tuna, haddock or cod are beneficial to healthy eating.
Adding soya based products like soya beans, soya milk or tofu can help you to round out your meals. When it comes to milk, you’ll find that skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk or 1% fat milk will help you stay healthier. You should also look out for cheese and yoghurts that are lower in fat, sometimes these products will be labelled as reduced fat products or light products. Similarly, try to choose spreads that are unsaturated fats, such as olive, sunflower or rapeseed.
You may not think that being healthy and eating right is that important but it can cause a lot of problems and if you are overweight now, it may be causing you problems for later on in life. There is an increased chance of suffering from high blood pressure and heart disease if you are overweight. A quick guide is to check your waistband. If you are in Europe, you’ll find that a waist larger than 94cm/37” for men, or 80cm/32” for women, is an indicator of being overweight. While height and other factors combine to make up a person’s true health, this is a good guide to determine if you could benefit from losing weight.