(BPT) – Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. It provides your body with the necessary oxygen and nutrients vital for daily survival. If you want to improve your overall health and protect your heart, simple changes in your lifestyle and diet can make a big impact.
For these changes to stick, focus on adding more healthful foods, rather than just taking things out of your daily diet and routine.
1. Add more seafood
Seafood is not only a good source of protein, but also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The Seafood Nutrition Partnership, citing the American Heart Association, advises eating at least two servings of seafood per week for enough omega-3s and nutrients to show improved health. In particular, fatty fish such as salmon, trout, pollock, barramundi, mackerel, herring, sardines and albacore tuna have the highest amounts of the heart-healthy nutrients that help prevent cardiovascular disease.
To incorporate more fish into your diet, start with the recipe for Easy Lemon Pepper Salmon from The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
When selecting fish, whether fresh, frozen or canned, look for the MSC blue fish label to know you’re choosing sustainable seafood that’s good for you and good for the ocean. The MSC is a global nonprofit dedicated to protecting wild seafood for generations to come. By taking the simple step to look for the MSC label when purchasing seafood, you can help protect oceans from overfishing, support fishermen and fishing communities, and promote traceability — from the ocean to your delicious seafood dish.
2. Seek healthy fats
Not all fats are created equal. With all the fad diets that come and go, the Mediterranean diet continues to top media and nutritionists’ lists of best plans for healthy eating. It’s also been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The most commonly used fat in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil, which is great for cooking, salad dressings and more. Other healthy fats come from the foods themselves, like the unsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, seeds or avocados.
The Mediterranean approach is also plant-based, adding proteins like fish, lean meat, poultry and dairy (in moderation).
3. Opt for whole grains
Also featured in the Mediterranean plan are whole grains like brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat bread, oats and quinoa. Less-processed grains are healthier because they have both higher nutritional value and better fiber content.
The nutrients in many whole grains — including potassium, iron, phosphorus and more — help boost your heart health. The higher fiber in whole grains aids digestion and can help you keep your weight down, which can also improve your heart’s function.
4. Focus on plants
You’ve probably heard a lot about plant-based eating recently. That’s because of the growing awareness of both the health and the environmental benefits of focusing a larger portion of your diet on plants. Including a wider range of differently colored fruits and vegetables — plus nuts, seeds, beans and legumes — will give you the greatest nutritional benefits.
Plants offer tons of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber — and many contain more protein than you might expect. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating more plant-based proteins is associated with lower heart disease risk in middle-aged adults.
5. Amp up your movement
Another vital ingredient in a heart-healthy lifestyle is exercise. Adding more daily movement helps you look and feel better, inside and out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, plus muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. It’s always best to consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise plan.
Choosing whole foods over processed foods will improve your heart health. Using herbs and spices can also make your meal plan easier to stick to. Not only do some seasonings — like ginger, garlic and turmeric — offer positive health benefits, but they can also reduce unhealthy cravings by satisfying your taste buds.
What’s good for your heart also can be good for the environment. When you make looking for sustainably-sourced, heart-healthy products part of your routine, you create a win-win for your health and for the health of the planet.