February is National Heart Health Month. In addition to exercise, eating right is the best way to a healthy heart.
Here are some quick tips for keeping your heart healthy:
1. Boost those fruits and veggies
Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories and don’t contain cholesterol. They also contain many vitamins and nutrients that are important for our health, including potassium which helps to achieve healthy blood pressure. Fiber from fruits and vegetables also helps reduce cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
2. Reduce sodium, not flavor
Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure. For the average American, 2,300mg of sodium is recommended per day. This is equal to only 1 teaspoon. Flavoring foods with seasonings that don’t contain salt can keep foods flavorful and fun without the extra sodium. Try garlic, citrus juice, salt-free seasonings, or spices. Choose canned options that have “no salt added” or “low sodium." You can also rinse the contents of your canned goods to remove excess salt.
3. Increase fiber intake
Fiber is our friend for many reasons. Fiber helps lower cholesterol levels, it helps with blood sugar control, and it keeps us feeling full. Good sources of fiber include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans and legumes.
4. Facts about fats
Reduce saturated fats and increase unsaturated fats to help improve your heart health. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and come from animal sources such as meat, cheese, and dairy products. Too much saturated fat can cause your LDL or “bad” cholesterol to rise. Instead choose unsaturated fat sources such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.
5. Choose whole grains
Whole grains are naturally rich in fiber. Swapping out white bread, rice, and pasta for whole grain alternatives can help improve your heart health while keeping you full. When looking for whole-grain products, read the ingredient list to make sure they’re made entirely from whole grains, not a mixture of whole and refined grains.