I like to think that I know what I should (and shouldn’t) be eating for good heart health, but a reminder every now and then certainly doesn’t hurt! February is American Heart Month – the perfect time to jog our memories about heart-healthy eating habits, or to learn more about heart health in general.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with one in every three deaths from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. The CDC is also happy to note that each of us holds a key that can help prevent heart disease.
Unlock the Door with Healthy Eating
Unfortunately, there isn’t one magic solution to prevent heart disease, but the way we eat is a major contributing factor. Take a look at some of the ways to eat smarter and healthier:
Get ‘Em In:
Fruits & Vegetables
We’ve heard it before: Eat your fruits and veggies! Easy enough, right? These goodies are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other properties that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. They fill you up and keep you satisfied, too, so you won’t want to reach for the nearest chocolate bar or other junky munchies!
Whole Grains and More
Whole grains are a great source of fiber. Add them to your diet for good heart health if you’re not already eating them (another bonus: They can also help regulate blood pressure). Add beans, legumes, and nuts and seeds to the foods you eat, as well. The American Heart Association recommends at least four servings a week.
Whether you need more help getting your fill or you’re just looking for a new recipe, here are a few OA recipe suggestions:
Get ‘Em Out:
Read your food labels and be on the watch for foods that contain trans fats and saturated fats, and foods high in cholesterol. Many packaged cookies, crackers and other snack foods contain trans fats and saturated fats (even if the box screams “Reduced fat,” the goodies can still contain saturated and trans fats). These types of fat contribute to high blood cholesterol levels, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Consider these OA snacks:
It’s helps to try to be conscious when you’re cooking (or even when you’re out). Cut down on the butter, shortening and fatty meats. And don’t forget sodium, which hides out in fast food and prepared foods like soups and other processed foodstuffs. Instead of adding salt to your dishes, try adding herbs and spices for flavor.
Change ‘Em Up:
It’s not difficult to make healthy swaps with some of your foods. Practice replacing butter with olive oil, fatty meats with leaner cuts, and full-fat dairy to the low-fat variety. Also, add heart-healthy fish, like salmon and mackerel, to your diet.
Portions play a big role in healthy eating. Think about some of the portion sizes restaurants serve – it’s typically more than what is recommended. A good trick when eating out: When your meal arrives, split it in half. Eat one half and take the other home. For information on healthy portion sizes, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate tool.
Visit the American Heart Association for information on heart health and conditions, as well as information on heart-healthy nutrition.