Heart to Heart
Did you know that February is American Heart Month? This month is dedicated to help reduce that amount of lives taken each year due to heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, accounting for roughly 1 in every 3rd death. In order to reduce the amount of deaths and decrease the risk factors for heart disease, we need an increased awareness to our diet and an increase in physical activity.
So what exactly makes up a heart healthy diet?
Variety is the Key!
According to the American Heart Association, the best way to maintain a healthy heart is to eat a varied diet. A healthy eating pattern includes many different fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, seeds, and vegetable oils. It is difficult and often impossible to cut out foods entirely from our diet so instead we should try to limit foods high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. We should avoid foods with trans fats entirely and also try to limit our intake of red meats. It may sound like it is a lot to part with, but if you think about it, the recommendation really just puts a limit on processed foods. Eating natural or whole foods and preparing them yourself is a great way to maximize flavor and variety without all the unnecessary sugars, salts, and fats that put us at risk for heart disease.
Healthy Foods, Happy Heart
So what are some of the best heart healthy foods? The best foods proven to be the best for your heart are salmon, nuts, berries, oatmeal, red wine, dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher), cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, whole grains, avocado, and olive oil. As you can see from this list, a varied diet really is the key to a healthy heart. All of these foods offer different benefits such as omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, the phytonutrients in berries, and vitamin C in citrus. This is not to say that you have to eat all of these foods every day but try to incorporate as many as you can into your weekly diet. The ways you can mix and match these ingredients is endless and can make for some delicious meals!
Your turn to take action: Try creating a weekly meal plan with a variety of heart healthy ingredients and share your ideas in the comments below!