Valentine’s Day is here! Take care of your heart and the hearts of those you LOVE by eating well! Eating a heart healthy diet is an important step toward managing or preventing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, as well as other diseases. These tips can help you choose foods that are “smart for your heart.”
Choose Whole Grains. Grains are an important source of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, several B vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium. Try quinoa, barley, wheatberries, freekah, polenta, old-fashioned or steel-cut oats, brown or wild rice, or 100% whole grain breads and cereals.
Choose Fruits and Vegetables. Your diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, which contain essential nutrients that can help prevent heart disease. When it comes to fruits and veggies, more matters! Start by trying to include at least one fruit and one veggie in every meal, and to make one dinner a vegetarian meal each week.
Choose Healthy Unsaturated Fats. Nuts and nut butters (almond, peanut, etc) are a rich source of unsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol when used in place of unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Other good sources of unsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, flax seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon. Be sure to stick to the recommended serving size for nuts and oils since the calories in these products can add up fast. AVOID Trans Fats and Limit Saturated Fats. These unhealthy fats contribute to plaque buildup inside your arteries and may raise blood levels of cholesterol. Read labels to be sure you are choosing products that do not contain any trans fats. Trans fat are listed as any type of “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list.
Choose Fiber. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and evidence shows that people who eat more fiber may have a lower risk of heart disease. Try to eat 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day at a minimum. Great sources include beans, lentils, whole grains, oat and wheat brans, nuts/seeds, and many fruits and veggies.
Choose Seafood. Fish is a good source of protein and other important nutrients. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Try fish such as mackerel, salmon, albacore tuna and sardines – all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh is best, but canned salmon and tuna are convenient and versatile too.
Choose Lean Meats and Poultry. Aim for lean cuts such as the loin, round, or 90% lean ground beef. When choosing poultry, always remove the skin, and use healthful cooking methods like baking, roasting, or slow-cooking in the crockpot. Most importantly, reduce the portion size of meat/poultry and fill your plate with more vegetables instead!
Choose Reduced Sodium Products. The easiest way to reduce sodium is to eat whole, unprocessed foods. Sodium is found in many other sources than table salt, so try to limit these foods:
- Processed meats: smoked/canned meats, bacon, sausage, cold cuts, and hot dogs.
- Prepared and packaged foods: macaroni and cheese; seasoned rice, noodles and pastas; instant and seasoned potato mixes; some frozen entrees; canned soup.
- Processed dairy products: processed cheese slices and spreads, regular cheese, cottage cheese.
- Dressings and condiments: commercially prepared sauces, gravies and salad dressings, olives, pickles, relishes, soy sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, barbeque sauce.
- Crackers and snack foods: salted crackers, pretzels, chips and snack foods; party spreads and dips.
Happy Valentine's Day and Healthy Eating!