In February, we celebrate the fascinating organ that pumps 2,000 gallons of blood for us each day – the heart. Unfortunately, too many of us take this amazing organ for granted, and heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the US.
The good news is that heart disease for many people is preventable. One strategy for prevention is proper nutrition – feeding the body nutrients that promote health and life. As research evolves, so has the heart-healthy diet.
Here are some tips on what you should be feeding your heart.
- Eat the fat. For years, a low-fat diet was touted as heart-healthy. However, what we’ve learned is that actually, a diet that is rich in healthy fats is better for the heart. Healthy fats are found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds, peanut butter, avocados, and fish. These foods contain both mono- and poly-unsaturated fat and can help to reduce cholesterol.
- Focus on fiber. Specifically soluble fiber which is found in beans, lentils, oats, oat bran, barley, and apples. This fiber absorbs fat and cholesterol and prevents plaque formation.
- Eat the rainbow (but not Skittles®). Reducing sugar intake is important for heart health. If craving something sweet, try eating fruit or dark chocolate since these foods have health benefits.
- Drink (some) wine. Antioxidants, which are found in brightly and deeply colored fruits and vegetables, help to fight inflammation. Heart disease has been associated with inflammation so the goal is to choose anti-inflammatory foods which include red wine, berries, and dark (at least 70%) chocolate. Limit red wine to 1 (6 oz glass) daily for women and 2 (6 oz glasses) daily for men.
- Use herbs and spices. These foods are also rich in antioxidants and add lots of flavor to food. They can also help you cut back on your salt intake, which in excessive amounts can raise blood pressure. Try out turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, or cayenne pepper.
- Whole wheat is definitely better. There is a lot of confusion around if whole wheat is good or not. There is no doubt that whole wheat is better than white (bread, pasta, rice), so go with the whole grain whenever you can.
- Cut out the grease. Red meat, bacon, sausages, cheese, cream, butter - sure all of these foods are delicious, but they contain copious amounts of artery-clogging saturated fat so it’s good to limit them.
- Yes, you can eat eggs. The latest research shows that it’s highly unlikely that the cholesterol in eggs increases the risk of heart disease. Eggs are super nutritious and can even supply omega-3 fatty acids.
- Forget fad diets. Use the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet as a guide. These diets have been studied for many years, and they are the mainstay of heart health.
- Last but not least, meet with a Registered Dietitian! We can help you come up with a customized meal plan that will revolve around your food preferences and lifestyle.
Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll be able to give your heart a little extra love this month!
Updated February 2022