February is Heart Month!
You probably reacted to that title with an – Of Course it is – reaction. Yes, February is about Valentine’s Day, a time for the heart, but it is also a time to learn about heart healthy foods!
The first step in maintaining a healthy heart is knowing your health status and your genetic risks for heart disease. Once you and your physician have identified if you have any special limitations on diet and activity you are ready to take the next step. When it comes to what foods you should eat to promote heart health the evidence is clear. The more plant foods we consume, and the less animal foods, the better it is- let’s take a look.
Heart Healthy Foods
Research over the last fifty years has identified that eating plans that contain more saturated fat, the fat found in animal foods, the greater the potential for an elevation in your cholesterol levels. When looking at food choices the goals are:
- Choose lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb, or veal occasionally
- Enjoy poultry, fish, and seafood more often than red meat
- Substitute some plant-based protein foods like beans, nuts, or soy for some of the animal protein you might normally consume
- Add low-fat or fat free dairy foods to get the nutrition of dairy foods but without the saturated fat
- Add lots of vegetables to get a greater variety of nutrients and phytonutrients which can help promote heart health. Strive for a colorful menu for maximum heart benefit
- Switch from solid fats to fats that are liquid at room temperature like olive, canola or a variety of other plant-based oils.
If you need more help designing an eating plan that meets your needs, an appointment with a Registered Dietitian is a good place to start. You can locate a Registered Dietitian in your area by visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at eatright.org
Physical Activity for your Heart
When it comes to physical activity, the first step is to talk with your physician to learn if you need to take any precautions before starting a workout program. Once you know what you can do, a good goal is to aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. Aerobic activity includes walking, biking, dancing, swimming, etc. Learn more at the American Heart Association’s website. As you build strength and stamina you can increase your workout time, and start to add resistance work to help build muscle mass.
About Connie – Connie is a Registered Dietitian with extensive experience communicating in the food and nutrition space. Taking the science of food and nutrition and translating it to simple messages, new products, or exciting menus is her expertise. Making nutrition messages clear, accurate, and engaging aids all consumers.