When stress hits hard like it has during the pandemic, many of us eat more, and less-than-healthy comfort foods may be the treats we reach for first. But an unhealthy response to stress can be hard on your body, especially your heart. That’s why it’s smart – at the top of the New Year, or anytime – to try to eat more foods that nourish. It’ll make your heart happier, and maybe trim your waistline, too.
Don’t know where to start? Let the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) help.
“We have many recipes for healthy and really tasty dishes, plus an award-winning eating plan called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH for short,” said Charlotte Pratt, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., a nutrition expert at NHLBI. For years, the DASH eating plan has ranked among the U.S. News & World Reports’ best diets for healthy living and heart health. It’s secret, said Pratt: “Eating nutrient-dense foods and meals that are lower in sodium and saturated fat, rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and legumes.”
Some of the recipes NHLBI has developed to support the plan feature healthy versions of comfort foods, such as oven-baked french fries, chicken chile stew, and sweet potato custard. The recipes are easy to make and family-friendly. They include traditional African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Vietnamese, Latino, and Filipino dishes. You can find these recipes, along with tips about safe cooking, what to stock in your kitchen, and food shopping at healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov.
“The DASH eating plan is scientifically proven to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” said Pratt. And NHLBI research shows that increasing your physical activity and watching your calories while following DASH will also help you lose weight.
DASH requires no special foods, and it helps you set daily and weekly nutritional goals using these simple guides:
Eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains,
Include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils,
Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel and palm oils; and
Limit sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts.
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