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6 Heart-Healthy Foods for Seniors + Our Favorite Recipes accent

December 6, 2023 | By

No matter your age, it’s never too early or too late to start investing in your health through positive diet changes. If you want to encourage a healthy heart, then the right food can go a long way.

The Importance of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Taking care of our bodies is important from day one, but as we age, we may begin to understand this importance more fully. The cumulative effects of lifestyle choices begin to show themselves more clearly and can prompt us to reevaluate our choices and take better care of ourselves.

When it comes to heart health, we know that people aged 65 and older are at increased risk for cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, heart disease, or heart failure. Fortunately, your age is far from the only factor influencing your chance of these health risks; you can take steps to care for your cardiovascular health and proactively lower your chance of heart problems. Evidence shows that healthy dietary patterns and lifestyles can be effective in preventing cardiovascular disease. 

If you want to improve your health, one of the most important steps you can take is to improve your diet. Research shows that “poor diet quality is strongly associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality.” That may sound discouraging, but it also means the inverse is true: A good diet can significantly decrease your chances of experiencing cardiovascular problems.

What Are Heart-Healthy Foods for Seniors?

When determining the best nutrition plan, you should consider many factors. It is always best to consult a dietitian or nutritionist for dietary recommendations tailored to your individual health needs.

That said, we can all follow some general guidance to start investing in better heart health. A heart-healthy diet involves avoiding excess amounts of certain foods while prioritizing other foods at mealtimes. 

Avoid excessive amounts of:

  1. Saturated and trans fats: Saturated fats are found in many foods, especially meat and dairy products. A sign that fat may be saturated is if it is solid at room temperature (such as lard). Trans fats are found in solid fats manufactured from liquid oils, such as vegetable shortening. In excess, these fats can cause LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, to build up in the arteries.
  2. Added sugars: Sugar can come in many forms, such as corn syrup, sucrose, and dextrose. The average American adult consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which well exceeds the recommended limit of 10 percent of daily calories for most people. Excess sugar can increase blood pressure and chronic inflammation.
  3. Salt: Like sugar, the average American diet includes excess salt. Unhealthy sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. Some foods to watch for include canned soups and vegetables, which are often high in sodium, and salt-cured meats, such as bacon.
  4. Alcohol: In moderate amounts, alcohol doesn’t seem to impact heart health, but in excess, it can cause issues. Heavy drinking is associated with heart problems, including high blood pressure, stroke, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure. 

Be sure to eat plenty of:

    1. Fruits: Although added sugars are generally detrimental to your health, fruit — with its naturally sweet taste — can give your heart health a boost. In particular, studies show that blueberries, grapes, pomegranates, apples, hawthorn berries, and avocados boast “potent cardiovascular protective action.”
    2. Vegetables: Vegetables are full of vital nutrients that can contribute to a healthier heart. To enjoy the full benefits of vegetables, eat a variety. For heart health, include leafy greens and colorful vegetables such as carrots, red peppers, tomatoes, and squash.
    3. Whole grains: Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Many processed breads, pastas, and cereals are made with refined grains, which offer far less fiber and health benefits. Opt instead for whole-wheat options, along with oatmeal and brown rice. 
    4. Low-fat dairy: Although dairy can contain concerning amounts of saturated fats, low-fat, dairy-based foods are generally good for your health. Dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt contain vitamins and other nutrients that can contribute to your health.
    5. Lean proteins: You can enjoy many sources of protein in moderation. According to the American Heart Association, the best protein sources for heart health include lean, nutrient-rich options such as legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and seafood.
    6. Healthy fats: Not all fats are detrimental to cardiovascular health. Some fats are beneficial, including monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some healthy-fat foods include olive oil, nuts, flax seeds, and oily fish, like salmon.

Our Favorite Heart-Healthy Recipes for Seniors

Are you ready to start cooking and enjoy a heart-healthy meal, snack, or treat? Try these easy heart-healthy recipes for seniors; they’re some of our favorites!

Green Goddess Smoothie

For breakfast or a snack, whip up a delicious Green Goddess Smoothie. Blend soy milk, kale, cucumber, frozen banana, and vanilla soy protein powder with ice for a refreshing and nutritious pick-me-up. 

Sweet 'n' Heat Salmon

For lunch or dinner, try Sweet ‘n’ Heat Glazed Salmon. Apricot nectar, dried apricots, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper come together to create a flavor-packed glaze. Broil and baste salmon, and top with the remaining glaze for a delicious entrée that pairs perfectly with brown rice and vegetables.

Chocolate Nut Cookie in a Mug

You can satisfy your sweet tooth with this single-serving Chocolate Nut Cookie in a Mug

Mix melted margarine with liquid stevia sweetener, cocoa powder, flour, and a bit of egg white. Then, stir in your favorite heart-healthy nuts, such as pecans or walnuts.

Pop your mug into the microwave, and in less than a minute, you’ll end up with a warm, tasty treat!

Take Heart: There’s Help for Healthy Meals!

Your heart health should be a priority at all stages of life. By incorporating more heart-healthy foods into your diet and limiting potentially harmful foods, you can help protect your heart from damage and disease.

Healthy meal planning and preparation can become overwhelming at times. One way to make it easier and enjoy nutritious and delicious meals prepared with your health in mind is through senior living services. If you’re ready to move into a senior living community, choose one with quality dining options. Otherwise, you can take advantage of at-home services, such as Meals on Wheels. Take a step to make life easier, enjoy more variety in the food you eat, and invest in your health!

Want to learn more about leading a healthy lifestyle at this stage? Read The Complete Guide to Healthy Senior Living in the Des Moines Metro Area.

guide to living your best life after 55

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