Heart health is extremely important. Even if you do not currently have any issues today preventative measures should be top of mind when it comes to your diet.

Many healthy diets today promote heart healthy foods and many restaurants have started to shift to accommodate (well not all).

To make it easy, here is a chart of heart healthy foods.

Heart Healthy Foods

We already covered the process to maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle. But here we are going to focus on two major contributors: Salt and Sugar

First off sugar is very calorie-dense. Consuming too much sugar can cause insulin spikes, which can lead to inflammation. Excess sugar intake also leads to weight gain, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease, much like an excess of salt.

Your salt intake has a large affect on your blood pressure. When you eat a lot of salt, it causes your body to retain water, which then raises your blood pressure. Many people are unaware of just how much salt they consume with so much of it being added to many prepared entrees and packaged meals.

Avoiding or moderating these two ingredients can put you on the fast track to preventing heart disease. While consuming both in moderation is totally normal it’s important to be aware of potential substitutes.

Sugar Substitutes

Now you can’t always replace sugar in certain dishes and we’re not telling you to. We also don’t recommend fake sugar as that can sometimes be as bad or worse for you.

If you have some flexibility we recommend moving to less refined sugars and making adjustments when you can. Here are some of our recommendations.

  • Honey: Use 2/3 cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar. Honey can sweeten your dish and also provides a variety of fruity and floral flavors.
  • Maple Syrup: Use 3/4 cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup of sugar. Maple syrup will add a rich sweetness to your dish that also pairs well with salty or nutty ingredients.
  • Applesauce: Simply replace 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of applesauce in your cakes, muffins, nut breads, and brownies. A plus is applesauce will make your baked goods retain more moisture. Be sure to also reduce some liquid if you use applesauce instead of sugar.
  • Freshly Fruit Juice: Perfect for making sauces, marinades, salad dressings, or baked goods. Simply substitute every cup of sugar with 3/4 cup of juice. Similar to applesauce, be sure to reduce the liquid in your recipe if you use juice as a substitute for sugar.
  • Citrus Zest: Using the zest of a lemon, lime, or orange is a great way to sweeten baked goods and cocktails. Just grate the peel of a citrus fruit into your batter or beverage until the flavor is to your liking.
  • Raisins, Figs, and Dates: These naturally sweetened dried fruits can substitute on a 1:1 ratio in many baked goods. All you need to do is soak the dried fruits in hot water, add them to a blender, and puree them until they become smooth.
  • Bananas: Like the fruit paste, bananas can also replace sugar on a 1:1 ratio. Combine one cup of mashed, overripe banana with a few tablespoons of water and puree until smooth.

Salt Substitutes

When you can it’s always best to use a less refined options like sea salt, pink Himalayan sea salt, and Molokai sea salt. When you can avoid it try some of these other alternatives.

  • Garlic, Onions, and Leeks: Incorporate these ingredients to your stir fry, casserole, soup, and pasta to add delicious flavor without the high levels of sodium. These as well as others from the Allium genus of plants, are known to lower blood pressure and hinder potential tumors.
  • Spices: Ingredients like pepper, oregano, basil, cumin, turmeric, and other seasonings can enhance your dish. Not only do they add more flavor but many of them are also known to boost metabolism and curb hunger.
  • Vinegar: You can use fruit- or garlic-infused vinegars to marinade meats or make salad dressings without the added salt. Vinegar can also be put into pasta sauces and soups for added savory flavor.
  • Nutritional Yeast: This all-natural ingredient is used in a lot of vegan dishes and starting to become a lot more popular. Unlike baking yeast, this version is deactivated, so it has no leavening ability. Thanks to its salty, but also somewhat cheesy flavor, it’s commonly sprinkled on popcorn, macaroni and cheese, pasta, and potatoes.

By using some of these substitutions in your cooking, baking, or even outside eating, you’ll be able to make healthier choices without sacrificing taste.