Diet plays a huge role when it comes to our overall health. Poor nutrition can lead to a myriad of issues, like obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, even cancer. It can also raise your risk of dying from a stroke or heart disease.

The “cardiac diet” is an unofficial term referring to a heart-healthy diet. Two popular diets for heart health are the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet. A truly heart-healthy diet will emphasize eating fruits, vegetables, lean poultry, whole grains, and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon.

A heart healthy diet also limits processed foods high in unhealthy fat, salt and sugar. The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommend limiting saturated and trans fats, minimizing heavily processed foods, and limiting or eliminating alcohol.

Red wine has long been recognized as being a “heart healthy” alcohol, possibly lowering cholesterol and the risk of dying from heart disease. While red wine does offer the benefit of antioxidants, there is no clear connection that red wine can protect the heart. According to the American Heart Association, its possible red wine drinkers are more likely to lead healthy lifestyles and eat healthier diets. This means there are other factors benefitting the heart aside from drinking red wine.

If you do not drink alcohol, it’s not recommended you start just for the supposed benefits. Alcohol is ok in moderation, but it can become addictive and lead to health problems or worsen existing conditions.

General Recommendations

Always try to avoid “empty calorie” foods, as they are high in sugar, salt and fat, and low in nutrients. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, and quitting smoking is essential to your health. Not only does it cause cancer, strokes, lung disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but it increases your risk for eye diseases, tuberculosis and arthritis.  

If you enjoy red meat, keep your portions to no more than 3 servings a week. Red and processed meats are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Swap the steaks for white meat such as chicken, or go meatless with a plant-based protein like beans.

Water is the best beverage choice, as it has no calories and keeps you hydrated. If you prefer something with a little flavor, coffee and tea without added sweeteners also fit into a heart healthy diet. Juices, milk, diet sodas and alcohol should be consumed in moderation. Energy drinks, sports drinks, and sugary sodas should be avoided if possible.

Plan Your Menu Ahead

Planning ahead can help ensure you get all your daily nutrients in. Cooking at home also allows you to control the portion sizes, and what ingredients go into the dish. Be mindful when ordering out, as some restaurant dishes are “calorie bombs”, meaning the serving well exceeds the threshold of your daily calorie allowance.

Adhering to a diet can be hard, and there will certainly be temptation to have another glass of wine, or eat that big slice of chocolate cake. It’s ok to allow yourself a treat every now and then, but be mindful to not overindulge. As long as you are eating healthy most of the time, enjoying the occasional not-so-healthy treat won’t derail your diet or progress.

Finding Support in your Wellness Journey

Catholic Health is proud to offer a wide range of services, from cardiac care to nutrition guidance. If you are at risk of developing heart problems, or want to get a jump start on improving your overall health and wellness, our team of experts are here to help. Call to learn more about what our specialists can do for you, and start your new healthy lifestyle today.

Find a Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2112

Find a Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2112