Heart Your Diet

posted by Jenna Walsh on Wednesday, February 3, 2021

It’s February! The month that sheds light on all things “heart” related, from Valentine’s Day to American Heart Month. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women; but with lifestyle changes, you can help reduce your risk for heart-related complications. Medication and exercise are important components to health, but don’t skip out on your diet! It oftentimes follows a general healthy eating pattern, thus, eating for better heart health is a great option for all individuals.

Include these options in your daily routine that your heart will be thankful for:

1. Fruits and Veggies!

Most individuals are lacking in the fruits and veggies department. Ideally, we should make HALF of our plate fruits and veggies. This should include a variety of colors and flavors (think: Eat the Rainbow) to ensure that we are getting a collection of vitamins and minerals. Fruits and veggies are a great source of fiber, which can help to not only lower our cholesterol but also help us feel fuller for longer periods and maintain a healthy weight. Aim for 20-30 g of fiber daily with 2-3 servings of fruit and more than 3 servings of veggies daily.

Shopping Tip: If choosing canned veggies, pick lower sodium options and be sure to rinse them.

2. Nuts/Seeds

These good guys are a great source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which help our “good” cholesterol. Sprinkle on salads, use the spread options for sandwiches, or eat as a snack for a hearty treat.

Shopping Tip: Choose lower sodium options or unsalted.

3. Whole Grains

Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain, which include the fiber component. Like fiber in fruits and veggies, this can help to lower cholesterol levels. Common food items that are whole grains would be whole grain bread, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and popcorn.

Shopping tip: When choosing whole grain, make sure the number one ingredient states “whole” such as whole-wheat flour. Whole grain is often confused with multi-grain, but the two are not interchangeable.

4. Ditch the salt shaker

Sodium, although essential, can increase blood pressure if overconsumed. Replace salt at the table with other flavorings such as herbs, spices, and citrus juice to ensure flavor without the side effects. Be sure to give your taste buds time to adapt to the change and decrease salty foods gradually instead of all at once. This way, you’re more likely to accept the flavor change.

Shopping tip: “Salt-Free” or “Sodium-Free” items contain less than 5 mg of sodium.

Eating for better heart health can be overwhelming to some, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a dietitian for help! It is best to focus on what you can eat vs elimination and choosing one small goal to accomplish at a time. As always, don’t be afraid to try new recipes! Here is a recipe that includes whole-wheat pasta and a great “starter” for individuals that typically consume regular pasta.


  1. nutrition

About The Author

Jenna Walsh

Jenna Walsh is one of Spencer Hospital’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. She graduated from Iowa State University and completed her dietetic internship at various locations throughout northwest Iowa, including Spencer Hospital. She currently works as an outpatient dietitian providing in ... read more