Considering the great job your heart does at taking care of your body, isn’t it time to start taking the best possible care of your heart?

A heart-healthy diet begins before you sit down at the dining table, and even before you open the refrigerator. Heart health starts in the grocery store. From breakfast to dinner to TV-time snacks – you make important decisions about your health with each item you toss into your shopping cart. So, as you make your shopping list, focus on the five main food groups to keep yourself on track. Remember to avoid the grocery store when you’re hungry to keep from buying on impulse.

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These are guidelines from each food group for making a heart-healthy food shopping list.

Fruits and veggies group

Our daily fibre, vitamins and minerals are derived from fruits and vegetables, so this category gets first place. At least three fruit servings and three to five vegetable servings are recommended daily.

High cholesterol fighters include:

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Eggplant
  • Okra

High in vitamins and minerals:

  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Peaches
  • Berries

High in fibre:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Bananas
  • Oranges

For snacks try raw vegetables like carrots and celery sticks, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and cauliflower with light ranch dressing or seasoned plain Greek yogurt for dipping – delicious!

Use lemons and limes for flavoring food dishes and drinks like sparkling water. Include frozen and canned vegetables and fruits preserved in water with no added salts and sugars when fresh produce is not in season. Dried fruits along with one or two pieces of dark chocolate (instead of baked goods) make nice after-dinner sweet treats!

Meats and proteins group

For daily proteins, irons and zinc two to three daily servings will supply the vitamins and nutrients to keep the body running efficiently.

Heart healthy meats are:

  • Salmon
  • Lean chicken
  • Lean turkey
  • Cold-water fish like mackerel, cod, trout, herring and tuna

Choose red meats sparingly – while they are high in protein, they also contain saturated fats. For example: a six-ounce porterhouse steak contains 38 grams protein but also has 44 grams of fat, 16 grams being saturated fat. A six-ounce portion of salmon on the other hand, contains 34 grams protein and 18 grams of fat with only 4 grams being saturated fat!

For vegetarian diets, good sources of protein, low in saturated fat include:

  • Soybeans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Egg whites
  • Low-fat dairy products

Dairy group

Calcium keeps bones strong. Two to four servings daily from the dairy group is recommended – include from the following.

  • Low or non-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Partly skimmed ricotta
  • Feta cheese
  • Partly skimmed mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Romano cheese

For lactose intolerance, good sources of calcium include:

  • Baked beans
  • Canned salmon
  • Almond milk
  • Rice milk
  • Calcium fortified orange and cranberry juice, soy milk, breakfast cereals and breakfast bars

Grains group

Grains provide the carbohydrates that give us energy; six to nine small daily servings from the grains group are recommended including the following:

  • Whole grain bread
  • High- fiber cereal (5 g or more per serving)
  • Brown rice or buckwheat (kasha)
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Whole-wheat flour

Fats, oils and sweets group            

Not all fats are bad in fact certain fats are essential building blocks to the cells of the body and a healthy heart. Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

  • Polyunsaturated fats are found in oily fish and plant oils like sunflower oil.
  • Monounsaturated fats are from olive oil, canola oil, avocadoes and some nuts.

Avoid saturated and trans fats – they can raise cholesterol levels. Trans fats are particularly bad for heart health as they not only increase bad cholesterol but also decrease levels of good cholesterol.

Conclusion

If you’ve thought about watching your cholesterol or perhaps a loved one has suffered a heart attack or stroke, view it as your personal wake up call. Don’t wait for the doctor’s orders; start thinking ‘heart-healthy’ with the choices you make at the grocery store!

Guest post written by Alice Lucette who is a blogger from Canada and is a writer for SeniorsZen.com – a free resource for finding local retirement housing in Canada.