February is the month for all matters of the heart, so what better time to talk about heart health than this month? Diet has a large impact on heart health, so whether you are managing a heart condition or just want to keep your heart as healthy as possible and avoid any heart problems, we have five tips for simple things you can do today for your heart.
- Try adding less salt to your food, or adding no salt at all. Reducing salt in the diet helps control blood pressure, keeping your cardiovascular system healthier. Restaurant food is notoriously high in sodium content, so bring your lunch instead of going out, and make dinner at home more often.
- Choose olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, whereas butter is high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of fat that’s important to reduce when it comes to heart health. Olive oil features prominently in the Mediterranean diet, which is a dietary pattern associated with low rates of heart disease.
- Choose fish instead of red meat. Much like butter, red meat is high in saturated fat. Fish, on the other hand, is a good source of heart-protective polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids because our bodies are not able to make them and we must get them from our diet. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and leafy vegetables are other sources of omega-3s. These fats appear to help the heart beat in a steady rhythm and keep the blood vessels healthy.
- Eat more plants. Filling at least half of your plate with plants may help prevent heart problems; cultures with a high intake of produce have better heart health overall. Have a salad before dinner, and steam or roast some vegetables to go with the rest of your meal. Snack on fruit paired with protein, such as an apple with unsalted peanut butter.
- Swap refined grains in favor of whole grains. Consumption of whole grains is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and may help lower cholesterol levels, so choose whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, and brown rice instead of their white counterparts.
This month's blog contribution comes from Louisa Paine, Registered Dietitian at The Mount Auburn Club.
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The information presented here is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health condition. As always, please speak with your registered dietitian regarding any dietary modifications or nutrition-related questions.