Balance is key.

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Maintaining an active lifestyle and consuming a heart-conscious diet are two important steps towards boosting your cardiovascular health. The latter involves eating the right mix of proteins, fats, and nutrients—which is where a registered dietician comes in. These professionals can help you tailor a diet that bolsters this organ, especially over time. While it is absolutely worth seeking out and making an appointment with this type of healthcare professional for a tailored-to-you plan, we're here to help you get you started with general advice everyone can benefit from. Ahead, Jessica Bippen, a registered dietician and nutrition and wellness advisor for Essentia Water, shares exactly what she eats to boost her own heart's health.

chopping kale
Credit: Getty / alvarez

A Healthy Balance

During breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Bippen structures her meals so they always contain a mix of protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbohydrates. "This creates a balanced plate that helps keep me full, satisfied, and helps stabilize blood sugar," she says. "Maintaining normal blood glucose is linked to a number of health benefits, including weight loss and reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels." Healthy blood sugar levels can also reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, she notes.

Key Ingredients

When it comes to protein, Bippen finds herself reaching most often for plant-based iterations—or eggs and fish like salmon for its omega-3s. "A typical meal consists of plant-based protein, like tempeh, tofu, and beans, or animal protein, like eggs or salmon," she says, noting that she prefers sides like "dark leafy greens and raw or cooked veggies." She also loves sweet potatoes, red cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. "I'll add in some whole grains and healthy fats to complete the meal," she shares.

Smart Snacking

Come snack time, Bippen takes a similar approach. "For example, combining a carb with healthy fats—a bowl of berries and a handful of nuts—is much more satisfying and has a little more staying power. I'm not reaching for another snack an hour later," she says. Nuts or nut butter paired with a sprouted whole grain English muffin or toast is another smart choice, since these types of snacks provide added protein, fiber, B-vitamins, iron, and zinc. "I like sprouted whole grains because they're higher in several nutrients," she adds. "Sprouting also decreases anti-nutrients, making the nutrients in the grains more readily available to your body." And when she's on the go? She opts for nut butter packets, she says, since they are shelf-stable and easy to stash.

More Is More

When it comes to those not-so-heart-healthy foods, Bippen takes this approach: add them to your meal rather than make a meal out of them. This way, the good outweighs the bad. "That being said, there are some foods I try to minimize for optimal health," she says, noting that ultra-processed snacks, like chips, cookies, cakes, and crackers, are typically low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and high in salt, added sugar, and unhealthy refined fats. "There's been numerous studies on the negative effects of ultra-processed foods and heart health," she continues. And while she avoids the bulk of prepackaged items, there are a number of healthy options on the market, so don't count them out entirely, Bippen says. She suggests carefully reading nutrition label before popping them into your cart. A foolproof tip? "The simpler the ingredient list, the better!"

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