5 Heart-Healthy Substitutions to Make in Your Daily Diet

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the Philippines, so it pays to start taking care of your heart at a young age. Here are some heart-healthy food substitutions you can make to your everyday diet.

It’s never too early or too late to start taking care of your heart—and we mean that physiologically, not emotionally! According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are the leading causes of death in the Philippines.

“Those who are still young and healthy should be physically active and eat the right food to prevent hypertension and reduce the risk of diseases of the blood vessels and the heart,” writes Dr. Alex T. Junia, President of the Philippine Heart Association, on PhilHeart.org. “Lifestyle changes such as exercising, losing your excess weight, avoiding excess dietary sodium, maintaining your ideal weight and not smoking should be incorporated.”

He lists a few changes you can make to your daily habits:

  • have five servings of fruits and vegetables
  • limit your recreational screen time to a maximum of two hours per day
  • engage in one hour of physical activity
  • avoid sugar-sweetened beverages
  • stop smoking

The American Heart Association also recommends reducing the amount of sodium and saturated or trans fats from your diet. Saturated fats are found mostly in food sourced from animals, like red meat and dairy; they raise total blood levels and can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and, possibly, type 2 diabetes. Trans fats come from oils in processed foods; these raise your risk for cardiovascular disease by increasing levels of low-density liproprotein (LDL) cholesterol—what is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol—and decreasing levels of high-density liproprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. Check out some of the food items you might want to trade for healthier options below.

    Baked goods made with white flour (white bread, muffins, doughnuts, croissants, etc.) Wheat or whole grain products (Melba toast, pita bread, whole grain rolls, whole wheat bagels)
    High-sodium, high-fat potato chips and corn chips Low-sodium, low-fat pretzels, baked chips, fruit crisps or chips, veggie sticks
    French fries Baked potatoes, brown rice, steamed vegetables, air-fried or oven-baked fries
    Hamburgers Grilled chicken or sliced meat sandwiches
    Ice cream Frozen fruit bars, sherbets, or fat-free yogurt

It’s always a good idea to substitute something that use white flour with something that use wheat or whole grain instead. Melba toast, pita bread, and whole grain rolls will pair well with savory foods. Rather than snacking on doughnuts or danishes, you can try a small bagel instead.

Potato and corn chips are high in sodium and fat, so if you can’t eliminate these from your diet completely, try substituting them with low-sodium, low-fat pretzels and potato chips instead. Fruit chips like apple crisps may also be a good alternative; just make sure you check the packaging for information on sodium content. Even better, snack on fruit or veggie sticks instead of potato chips. If you absolutely must satisfy your chips craving, though, rather than going for fried options, switch to low-sodium baked chips instead. And if you like these with dips, try some fat-free sour cream instead of ranch or cream cheese.

Whether as a side dish or a solo snack, french fries can certainly be addictive. For sides to your proteins, try baked potatoes, brown rice, or steamed vegetables instead. At the very least, reduce the amount of salt you use on your fries, and skip the dip. If you can, go for air-fried or oven-baked options rather than deep-fried fries, which have high fat content thanks to the amount of oil used.

Like french fries, hamburgers are also a fast-food restaurant staple, but even the gourmet options come with a high fat-content price tag. If you’re looking for filling sandwiches, grilled chicken or sliced meat (such as turkey, chicken breast, and low-fat ham or roast beef) are better options. Plus, don’t forget to pair the meat with a healthy helping of vegetables!

There’s nothing like a scoop of ice cream on hot summer days, is there? Well, because of the high-fat cream often used for these, ice cream can be less than healthy for your heart. But you don’t have to forsake frozen treats altogether: try frozen fruit bars (plus points if homemade with less sugar) or options like sherbets or fat-free yogurt instead.

Get started on a more heart-healthy diet today, and consider adding a little more exercise to your routine as well.