Q: What Can I Do to Improve my Heart Health?
February 7, 2013
Culinary Nutritionist Natalia Hancock discusses how to reduce your risk of heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States.
Valentine’s Day -- the day of love and chocolate – conveniently falls within the month of February, also known as National Heart Month. There should be no greater love than the one you have for yourself, and there’s no better time than now to start thinking about your heart health!
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. By making just a few smart and healthy choices, you can manage and reduce your risk of heart disease. For example:
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Filling up on fruits and veggies rather than processed foods will help decrease your intake of calories, sodium, sugar and fat. They should be a substantial part of every meal and are perfect for a midday snack.
Limit your intake of sodium
Sodium is naturally present in many foods, but is most concentrated in processed foods which require extended shelf life. By cooking with fresh ingredients (lean meats, poultry, fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and cutting out processed ingredients, you will drastically reduce your sodium intake. Seasoning with a moderate amount of salt while cooking is OK, but always taste before you add additional salt. Read about other ways to reduce your sodium intake.
Switch to whole grains
Choosing whole grains over refined will not only add fiber to your diet, but also other nutrients that will regulate your blood pressure and maintain a healthy heart. Try intact grains such as barley, quinoa or farro and consume more whole grain pastas, breads and cereals.
Know your fats
Decrease the amount of trans- and saturated fats, which are found in red meat, butter, cream, coconut, palm and hydrogenated oils. This may reduce your blood cholesterol levels and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. Instead, cook with healthier, unsaturated fats and get your polyunsaturated omega-3 fats from sources like seafood and chia seeds.
Exercising will strengthen your heart, improve circulation, lower blood pressure, increase energy and reduce body fat. Try incorporating 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week by going for a walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
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