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Food Can Be Your Ally in Protecting Your Heart From Disease

November 3, 2022

Who doesn’t look forward to a delicious meal, especially when shared with friends and family? Food is so much more than sustenance. We use food to celebrate, to comfort, to heal.

For older adults, food can become even more of a focal point. In a senior living community, everyday dining is elevated to a much-anticipated social experience. Some communities (like ours) even have highly trained executive chefs overseeing their culinary team.

While it’s important to prepare meals that are pleasing to the palate — especially since older adults may have a decreased sense of taste and smell, along with less of an appetite — there’s more to consider. Nutritional needs change as we get older, so those must be taken into account as well.

If you think about it, food can be a form of preventive medicine at any age. We can use our diet as a way to lower our risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Best of all, by making smart choices, we can still enjoy every single bite!

The Best Diet for Heart Disease? One You’ll Actually Follow

You may already know some of the conventional advice for adapting your diet to be more heart friendly. We’ll cover some of the basics in just a bit. First, though, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Unless you’re under the care of a cardiologist who has sharply restricted your diet, you’re probably not going to give up the not-so-healthy foods you love entirely. It can take a lot of willpower for someone who loves french fries or doughnuts or ice cream to forgo those foods all of the time.

The best approach is either to indulge less frequently or, if possible, modify the food to make it healthier. For example, if you love fried foods, then it might be worth investing in an air fryer. You can also look online to find ways of converting recipes so they’re more heart healthy.

And now, as promised, we’ll offer some of those rules of thumb to help you help your heart.

Foods That Are Good for Your Heart

Many of the foods on this list are referred to as superfoods. They’re nutrient dense and thought to be particularly beneficial for health and well-being.

  • Beans and lentils
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel
  • Unsalted walnuts and almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds
    (grind flax seeds for the most nutritional benefit)
  • Edamame
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Cherries
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Swiss chard and other dark, leafy greens
  • Dark chocolate
  • Green tea

Some of these foods, such as greens and berries, can be eaten with abandon. Others — such as avocados, walnuts and olive oil — should be consumed in moderation because they are higher in fat or sugar.

Foods That Are Not Good for Your Heart

While some people believe there are foods that cause heart disease, a direct link between specific foods and cardiovascular conditions has not yet been established. Still, experts suggest there are foods to avoid for those with heart disease (and for those who wish to prevent heart disease).

Hydrogenated oils, saturated fats and trans fats. These fats can raise blood cholesterol, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries. To lower your risk:

  • Choose lean meats and limit your intake of red meat
  • Use less butter, margarine and shortening
  • Select low-fat alternatives, including dairy items such as cheese, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream
  • Check food labels on snacks, pastries and baked goods — many contain partially hydrogenated oils
  • Use a cooking method other than deep-fat frying

Fatty meats, organ meats and processed meats. The list includes (but is not limited to) liver, marbled meats, bacon, spareribs, hot dogs, sausage, pepperoni, beef jerky, cold cuts and fast-food chicken nuggets. Processed meats include those containing chemical preservatives as well as those that have been smoked, salted, dried, canned or cured.

Food high in sodium. You’re probably aware that being heavy-handed with the salt shaker isn’t good for you. Still, there are less-obvious ways that salt can sneak into your diet and potentially sabotage your good intentions. These are some common foods that are often high in sodium:

  • Canned foods, especially soups
  • Frozen dinners and entrees
  • Salad dressings and condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce and mayonnaise
  • Potato and tortilla chips, popcorn and pretzels
  • Most fast-food menu items

TIP: Low-sodium options are often available. Check Nutrition Facts labels for sodium amounts and look for 140 mg or less per serving.

White rice and food made with white flour. The body quickly converts refined grains to sugar and then stores what you don’t use right away for energy to fat — often in the form of belly fat. Better options are whole grains such as brown rice, oats and whole wheat. Look for “100% whole grain” on the package to make sure you’re actually getting a product made with whole grains.

Healthy Dining at Emerald Heights

It’s no secret that dining is among the favorite activities for seniors, and that’s certainly true at Emerald Heights. Residents look forward to meeting their neighbors, friends and family members in our restaurants.

Chef Matthew and his team know that healthy food must also taste good or people simply won’t order it. The seasonal menus here in our community feature fresh, local ingredients with a focus on nutrition — without sacrificing flavor.

While you’ll find traditional favorites on the menus, you’ll also find options for those who want to adhere to a specific type of diet, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free selections.

Take our version of the buddha bowl, for example. It’s a popular choice, and we adapt it to take advantage of fresh, seasonal produce. You can get creative and make your own buddha bowl at home by trying this recipe. The variations are endless!

What to Look for as You Explore Retirement Communities in Washington State

Senior living options run the gamut from independent and assisted living to memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Some, like Emerald Heights, offer the full continuum of care.

Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that any community you’re considering is well-maintained and the staff is friendly. You’ll also want to check out the available services and amenities — including dining options. When you visit, schedule your appointment so that you can have a meal while you’re there.

If you’re doing research on independent living in Redmond (or an advanced level of senior care), we hope you’ll take a closer look at our community. You can start right now by learning more about our holistic approach to wellness

Then, if you like what you see here on our website, we encourage you to come experience Emerald Heights in person!