Take Care of Your Heart by Eating Smart
February has long been celebrated as Heart Month. Taking care of your ticker will help you live longer and do more of those things you enjoy. Unfortunately, heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. But you can take action!
The Million Hearts Campaign has developed a program called “Start Small. Live Big.” Small changes over time can lead to big results for your health.
When it comes to eating well for your heart, there are a few things to consider.
What kind of fats do you eat most? Saturated fats, which come from animal sources, are the fats that can increase cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries. This would be things like meats, milk, yogurt, butter and cheese. You don’t have to cut those things out, but here are some swaps you can consider:
- Cook with olive oil instead of butter
- Try spray butter on your vegetables
- Use 1% or skim milk
- Eat more Swiss, provolone or parmesan cheese
- Start a “Meatless Monday” tradition
- Use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef
- Use a loin or tenderloin cut of meat
Are you striving for five fruits and vegetables a day? Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber to help lower cholesterol and give you energy. When eating fruits and vegetables, they don’t have to always be fresh—consider frozen or no-salt-added canned vegetables and fruits packed in 100% juice instead of heavy syrup. Here are some easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to your day:
- Add peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach to your scrambled eggs
- Add shredded carrots to a soup or stew
- Throw broccoli or zucchini into your pasta sauce
- Use veggies with your dip instead of crackers or chips
- Put berries on top of your cereal
- Stir bananas into your muffin or pancake mix
- Add peaches or pineapple to your cottage cheese
- Make fruit the sweet dessert at the end of your meal
How much do you eat out? Sodium is highest in restaurant/ fast foods and processed package foods. Lowering your sodium can help your heart. Ways to do this that you might consider are:
- Reduce the number of days a week that you eat out
- Swap your fries for a salad
- Ask for the sauce on the side
- Choose healthy request or Light canned soups
- Use no-salt-added canned vegetables—or drain and rinse them
- Compare your food labels for sodium content and try to find an option that is lowest in sodium
Start with small things, and these will add up to big changes for your heart. If you need ideas, you can look for recipes from the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet or the Mediterranean Diet.