February is Heart Month, so this month, I’ll mix in some tidbits about heart health this month throughout my blog. Heart disease is related to a process called atherosclerosis – A fancy word describing the condition of the arteries when plaque builds up in artery walls. This build-up makes the arteries narrower (think of a hose that gets mud in it). This narrowing can also lead to high blood pressure, and the narrow blood vessels are also more susceptible to a blood clot forming and getting stuck (which can cause either heart attach or stroke).
According to the American Heart Association, a heart healthy diet is one that:
- Provides adequate calories to maintain a healthy weight
- Is low in saturated fat (less than 7% of total calories)
- Includes 2 servings of fish every week
- Is high in fiber, including whole grains
- Includes 4 servings of beans, legumes, nuts or seeds
- Includes less than 1500 milligrams of sodium daily
- Includes plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Limits sugary beverages to less than 36 ounces a week
Quick Tips for Meeting Heart Healthy Diet Goals Every Day:
- Add some fruit to your morning. Add fresh blueberries or sliced bananas to oatmeal or whole grain cereal.
- Mix up a big batch of brown rice early in the week to take to lunch. Add low sodium canned beans (rinsing beans reduces sodium) and a touch of fresh salsa for a quick meal, or add some frozen veggies and shredded low sodium cheese to it.
- Fish is so easy to cook. Most varieties only take 15-30 minutes to bake in the oven. Buy frozen fillets so you have it on hand. Look for sales and specials and buy in bulk to fit it into your budget. Check out a recipe video.
- Keep lemons and oranges in the fridge. A bit of citrus zest or juice adds zing to vegetable, fish, and chicken dishes, without added salt
- Drink more water. Keep a large glass at your desk or in the car so you can remind yourself to sip. I use a large lidded cup with a straw.
- Reduce portions of red meats by trying stir-fries or skillet dishes that focus on vegetables and/or grains. Add some steamed green beans or a green salad to this easy Beef Burgundy recipe.
You can also find heart-smart shopping tips here and in our book Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies®. Get on track to a healthier heart this month!