If you're serious about your health, you know that it begins with a healthy diet. For most Americans, that means a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Designing a heart-healthy diet is really not that difficult. There are hundreds of good-quality proteins and carbohydrates that can minimize your risk for heart disease without making you go hungry or feel like you've deprived yourself of your your favorite foods. It all begins with a plan.
Proteins are divided into complete and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain a high percentage of the nine essential amino acids required by the body to rebuild muscles, skin, hormones and organs. Almost all animal products, including meat, poultry and fish, are good sources of complete proteins and contain between 15 and 40 percent of the required amino acids. Incomplete proteins contain fewer amino acids. Plant sources like beans, lentils, peas and leafy green vegetables are good sources of protein and contain between 3 and 10 percent of the required amino acids. Because there is no such thing as the perfect food, eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to ensure that you're getting the protein that your body needs.
Carbohydrates are foods that are broken down into glucose and are one of the body's best sources of fuel. They are available in a wide range of foods like breads, milk, potatoes, spaghetti and corn. Carbohydrates are categorized into simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are made from from simple sugars: fruit sugar (fructose), grape sugar (glucose) and table sugar (sucrose). Complex carbohydrates are made up of three or more types of simple carbohydrates. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include whole grain cereals, brown rice, pasta and beans. A balanced diet includes foods from simple and complex carbohydrates. If you're diabetic or concerned about your blood glucose levels, eating substantial amounts of complex carbohydrates will help to keep your blood sugar from spiking, or rising above optimal levels.
The USDA Food Pyramid
For many, choosing the best proteins and carbohydrates can be confusing. A good place to start is by clicking on the link to the USDA Food Pyramid in References. The USDA Food Pyramid was redesigned in 1992 to make it easier for consumers to understand what types of foods they should include in their diet. The Food Pyramid is composed of six major areas: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans, and oils. By clicking on the grains and meat and beans categories, you'll get great ideas for menu items. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grain products like oatmeal, whole cornmeal and brown rice. Good protein sources are lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey and various types of beans like lentils and lima beans.