ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
A healthy heart doesn't come by exercise alone.
Ensuring heart health involves a combination of regular exercise and the right diet.
Marita Radloff, Health and Wellness Center registered dietitian nutritionist, said including whole grains like 100 percent whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and oatmeal, is part of eating heart healthy.
Beans and legumes, along with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in oils and fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, should also be part of the plan.
"Studies have shown that people who consume whole grains tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don't," she said. "This is probably because whole grains contain antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols that are protective against coronary disease.
"Whole grains are also higher in fiber than their refined grains counterparts," she added.
To fight heart disease, women should consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily, whereas men should eat at least 38 grams a day, Radloff said.
"A high-fiber diet, which is rich in whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables has been linked to a 40 percent reduced risk of heart disease compared to those who eat a low-fiber diet," she said. "Our bodies can't digest fiber, so when certain types of fiber bind to bile acid, a component in fat digestion that our bodies make from cholesterol, the fat is expelled, and isn't left circulating in the blood, leading to clogged arteries. That leads to a lower risk for heart disease."
Radloff said beans are a good fiber source.
"Beans are heart healthy because they contain soluble fiber, the type of fiber that binds bile acids, or fat, and prevents plaque formation," she said. "They may also help control blood sugar in people with diabetes, which is the key in avoiding diabetes complications, like heart disease. Eating good fats can help heart health too, Radloff said.
When monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are included in a balanced diet of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, heart attack risk was reduced by 30 percent in those with an elevated risk of heart attacks.
Including two or more servings of fish per week also cuts the risk of developing coronary heart disease by 30 percent, Radloff said.
Oily fish, like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel, contain the omega-3 fatty acids essential for heart health. Other omega-3 fatty acid sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil and soybean oil.
Radloff said use marinades or rubs when grilling.
"When grilling meats, you should only grill until they reach the appropriate food safety temperature and avoid charred marks, as these can contain cancer causing compounds," she said.
If baking, use spices, herbs or salsas to flavor meat.
When sautéing or stir-frying, use vegetable oils like canola or soybean, peanut oil, grape seed oil, or avocado oil. For an extra boost of heart healthy oils, use extra light olive oil or virgin olive oil.
Finally, use flaxseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, or unrefined walnut oil for heart-smart salad dressing.