Understanding Food Labels (And What to Avoid for Heart Health)
Reading and understanding food labels is essential to making the best possible decisions for your health and that of your family. The kind of information that is divulged in food labels can vary from product to product (when you factor in serving size, calories, nutrient information, etc.). Yes, it’s a lot to take in.
Let’s break it down.
It can be difficult to understand food labels – there’s tons of information there, from ingredients to serving sizes/portions and it can be hard to decipher.
Typically, food labels will give you the following info:
- the name of the product
- the brand name
- what ingredients it contains (listed in order from largest to smallest by weight)
- nutritional information (such as average amount of energy, fat, protein, sugars and salt)
- use-by or best-before date
- details of the manufacturer
- how much it weighs
- information for people with food allergies
- a list of food additives
- directions for use and storage
- the country where the food was produced
There are also certain ingredients located on a nutrition label that you’ll want to consume less of, which includes saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
Consuming too much saturated fat and sodium comes with an increased risk of cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure. In terms of nutrients you want more of, you’ll want to look for Dietary Fiber, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium.
A diet that’s rich in dietary fiber can increase the frequency of bowel movements, lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and reduce calorie intake. Diets high in vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium can reduce the risk of developing problems like anemia and high blood pressure.
Overall, you’ll want to just avoid overly processed junk foods and really try to maintain balanced meals on a regular basis. By avoiding things like saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars, you’ll be able to make much better decisions in the future when it comes to food!
Remember, if you don’t know what the ingredient is – look it up! 🙂
The Role That Fiber Plays In Your Heart Health
A lot of people don’t think about how fiber actually plays a pretty vital and important role in managing heart health. Fiber is found in most foods, but there are certain foods that are specifically beneficial for improving your heart health. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble, and some types of fiber-rich food actually contain both.
Fiber is also either considered to be either “dietary” or “functional.” Dietary fiber is typically found in the indigestible part of plants that we eat, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. Functional is usually extracted or made in a lab (in supplements or fiber-enriched food).
According to WebMD, most experts say not to overthink getting in that fiber since usually a proper and balanced diet will help you get the most of it anyway.
So, why fiber?
1. Lowers cholesterol
Soluble fiber can help reduce both “bad” LDL and overall cholesterol in general. High-fiber foods like oats, beans, etc. can also help reduce inflammation and blood pressure.
2. Controls blood sugar levels
It is recommended that people with diabetes consume fiber, which helps to slow the absorption of sugar and potentially improve blood sugar levels. A diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
3. Helps to manage weight/aids in weight loss
High-fiber foods are typically more filling than low-fiber foods, meaning you’ll be a lot less likely to overeat and gain weight. Therefore, you’ll feel satisfied for much longer. Additionally, high-fiber foods usually take longer to eat and are less “energy-dense,” meaning they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
4. You live longer!
Yes, studies have actually shown that increasing dietary fiber intake can help you live longer. This is because it shows a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.
Be sure to choose foods rich in fiber, and stock up on more every time you go shopping!
The Most Beneficial Exercises For Heart Health
There is always a specific go-to when it comes to combatting or maintaining any aspect of your health. In this instance, we’re talking about heart health. What are the best and most beneficial exercises for maintaining good heart health and how long should we be exercising for?
Let’s break down these beneficial exercises and how they’ll benefit you.
1. Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercises can improve circulation and result in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. For at least 30 minutes a day five days a week, you might want to engage in some brisk walking, running, cycling, etc. Basically anything of the sort that really gets the blood pumping! These kinds of exercises can also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and, if you already have diabetes, it helps you control your blood glucose.
2. Resistance Training
Resistance training mainly affects body composition. This is great for people who are carrying a lot of excess fat, especially around their belly area. These kinds of exercises help reduce fat and increase muscle mass, and a good combo of resistance training aerobic exercise can help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Typically, two nonconsecutive days per week of resistance training is best and it’s as simple as adding two free weights to your exercise routine or working with resistance machines.
3. Stretching, Flexibility, Balance
Stretching, flexibility, and balance don’t directly benefit heart health, but they do benefit musculoskeletal health, which ensures that you’re able to maintain your aerobic and resistance exercises. It’s best to do this every day and before/after exercising. These are super easy to do at any time right at home, such as simple yoga or tai chi.
Engaging in all of this on an active and regular basis will ensure your heart is ready to go and take on every single day!
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