How to Achieve Heart-Health without Eliminating Foods

Eating disorders and disordered eating of all kinds negatively affect the heart. Restriction can eventually cause the body to break down its own tissue for fuel, which includes the heart. Heart rate and blood pressure can begin to drop as the heart has less fuel to pump blood and fewer cells to pump with. Purging by vomiting or laxatives cause electrolyte imbalances and fluid loss. Electrolyte imbalances can cause irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia), which can lead to heart failure. If continued long-term, binging can result in metabolic changes that damage the blood supply to the heart. These metabolic changes may result in high blood pressure, triglycerides, and/or cholesterol.


Some individuals may also be genetically prone to heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among American men and women. Heart-health messages are often filled with diet culture and assign morality to food. This can lead to an increase in disordered eating and/or even more confusion. However, the way to achieve greater heart-health is actually quite attainable.


1) Focus on what you can add to your meals, not eliminate.


Instead of worrying about eliminating foods that you enjoy, just work on increasing your intake of heart-healthy foods. Heart-healthy foods include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and nuts/seeds. This could look like adding an extra serving of strawberries to your breakfast, or adding in a handful of nuts with your afternoon snack.


2) Aim for variety.


Focusing on heart-health does not mean that you have to eliminate salt, saturated fat, or sugar. Instead, focus on variety. For example, if you’re craving a hamburger and fries for lunch, then go for it! Have the hamburger and fries. However, try to have something different for dinner. Try out some vegetables as a side dish instead of something fried and salty. 


3) Work on mindfulness while eating.


Stress is linked to increased heart disease risk. That’s why it’s so important to actually enjoy what you’re eating in a way that feels good. If you’re stressed out about what you’re eating or how much you’re eating, then you’re actually doing more harm to your body. Tips for eating mindfully: 1) check in to how you’re feeling before, during and after the meal, 2) observe all of your senses, 3) appreciate the preparation of the food, 4) avoid distractions, and 5) eat foods that you enjoy!



Kelly Miller