What’s the first thing you say when somebody asks you what it is you want from going to the gym? Size, fitness, sex appeal? Surely it makes sense for the ultimate aim to be to improve your quality of life and ultimately extend it.
You see, we focus on getting everything in place so that our bodies are in the ideal condition for progress and development but we can take for granted the parts of our body that allow that to happen.
Impressive arms, abs and pecs are all great but the most important part of our bodies is our heart. Of course no one would knowingly put their heart in danger to focus more on building muscle or losing weight but that doesn’t mean our hearts can’t be neglected.
Don’t worry, I’m not writing this blog to scare you. The chances are that your nutrition is catering for your heart adequately and you aren’t in any immediate danger of heart disease. We can all still do a little bit more to ensure our heart is getting well and truly looked after though.
Let’s get onto the specifics.
- Fruit & Vegetables
I may have mentioned it in previous blogs but it doesn’t hurt to repeat, despite the fact 5-a-day has become a sort of cliché doesn’t mean it’s not right. In fact, generally, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the healthier your heart will be. Try and vary the fruits as well – 5 bananas, while good, won’t be as beneficial as if you tried 5 different fruits from all over the globe. Fruits can be high in sugar though, so be careful.
You’ll have read me saying that fats are not only good, but essential, and they are. If you are catering specifically for your heart health though you only want small amounts of fats even if they are unsaturated ones. Of course you should still avoid trans fats and replace saturated fats where possible. The point being that saturated fats have a direct link to raising cholesterol and even unsaturated ones can be high in calories.
I’m not sure what your childhood was like, but I specifically remember being told to be careful with the salt pot because it’s bad for the heart. Salt got this reputation due to its association with high blood pressure but salt doesn’t need to be cut out completely.
- Protein & Dairy
There’s a reason I’ve left protein until now – if I start a blog saying to eat some dairy and protein (not lots and lots), there’s the danger you might stop reading! Fortunately for you it’s the same old story with protein – keep red meats low and look for lean or low fat meats when you can. As for dairy, again you don’t need to cut it out but you can have too much.
Finally, alcohol. Easiest way to put this, if you don’t need it, why bother? In reality most of us enjoy a drink though. What I would say is as long as you stick to the guidelines you won’t be causing serious levels of harm. Some people even say a glass of red wine is good for the heart, but you can be the judge on that one – same goes for the occasional bar of chocolate!
As I say, if you’re exercising regularly and eating relatively well you shouldn’t be in danger of getting heart disease, especially while your young. These things are worth being aware of though so that you can make decisions now that your heart will thank you for in the future.