February is American Heart Month, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Lower your risk of heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol by following these 10 simple heart healthy steps:
- Eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen and canned are good options; choose items without added salt or sugar.
- Eat more fatty fish. You should include fish in your diet 2-3 times per week for enough omega-3 fatty acids to protect your heart. Try salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, or trout.
- Eat a variety of nuts and seeds, which contain healthy fats and fiber. Choose a small handful of unsalted nuts or add sunflower seeds to oatmeal or on a salad.
- Include a variety of beans in your everyday diet. Try salt-free canned or dry black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and pinto beans.
- Make at least half of your grains whole grains. Fiber-rich whole grains like oats, barley, farro, and teff can be found in most stores (don’t forget about brown rice, pasta, or whole grain bread).
- Choose low-fat dairy products such as fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products including yogurt, milk, and cheese.
- Lower your intake of food items high in saturated fat. Choose poultry without the skin and lean sources of meat. Cook with olive oil, canola, or vegetable oils instead of butter or margarine.
- Avoid trans fat. Limit foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients.
- Lower your intake of foods and drinks with added sugars. Sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit drinks, sports or energy drinks, and sweets are the main culprits. Choose water or naturally flavored drinks and whole fruit as a sweet snack. An occasional treat can still have a place in your diet, everything in moderation!
- Lower your sodium intake by choosing fresh foods over packaged or prepared items. Use a variety of spices other than salt when cooking, and rinse canned vegetables under running water.
Check out these heart healthy recipes:
Written by Federika Garcia Muchacho, dietetic intern with Simmons College#hearthealth, recipes