Eating Your Way to a Healthy Heart

healthy heart
February not only marks Valentine’s Day, but it is also American Heart Month. This is a good time to check your diet and make sure that it is heart healthy. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America however the good news is, that many of these risk factors for heart disease are preventable. While gender, age, and family history cannot be controlled, you can help manage high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity with a healthy lifestyle, including a heart healthy diet and exercise. Here are some tips to ensure your diet is heart healthy this month.

1. Aim for eating fish that are high in the good fats (poly- and monounsaturated) at least twice a week. This includes salmon, trout, albacore tuna, mackerel, and sardines.
2. To cut back on saturated or trans fat, the “bad” fats, select lean cuts of beef and pork including the loin or round. Remove all visible fat from meat before cooking and take the skin off of chicken or turkey before eating it.
3. When choosing a cooking method, baking, broiling, roasting, stewing, or stir-frying are the best options to help decrease the fat content.
4. Eating foods made with 100% whole grains or lots of fruit and vegetables that are high in fiber can actually help to decrease cholesterol. Try to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and make half of your grains from whole grains.
5. When choosing dairy, aim for low-fat sources such as 1% or skim milk or cheese made out of part-skim milk. Work your way up to this. If you normally drink whole milk, start with 2% instead until you can work your way up to 1% or skim.
6. Choose foods with omega-3 fatty acids. These can help reduce inflammation which can decrease the risk of a heart attack. Food sources of omega-3’s include oils such as canola, flaxseed, or soybean oil, walnuts, or eggs specifically labeled that they are high in omega-3’s. Those fatty fish mentioned in number one are also high in omega-3’s.
7. Limit the sodium you consume. The average American consumes at least twice as much sodium as our body needs. Most people need only 2,300 mg of sodium of salt a day which is just a teaspoon! Look for low sodium products, limit added salt to food, and make foods from scratch so you can control how much sodium you put in foods.
8. And last but definitely not least, aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week. If 30 minutes doesn’t sound feasible, break it up into 3-10 minute sessions or 2-15 minute sessions. This can help lower blood pressure, body weight, and help decrease stress.

Looking for a place to start? Try this easy heart healthy meal from

Skillet Salmon and Parmesan Potatoessalmon-parmesan-potatoes-400x400
• 1 (6 ounce) salmon fillet (about 1-inch thick)
• Cooking spray
• 2 medium potatoes
• 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 cups mixed salad greens
• 1 cup chopped tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons low-fat balsamic vinaigrette
• 1 lemon
• Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a nonstick skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat fish with cooking spray. Add fish to pan, and cook 6 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
2. While fish cooks, pierce potatoes with a fork; arrange in a circle on paper towels in a microwave oven. Microwave on HIGH 8 to 10 minutes, rearranging potatoes after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.
3. Cut cooked potatoes in half, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cheese. (Remember to cut down on sodium, limit how much salt is added here).
4. Combine greens, tomatoes, and vinaigrette in a bowl; toss gently.
5. Cut lemon in half, and squeeze lemon juice over fish. Serve with potatoes and salad.

Makes 2 servings (3 oz. salmon, 2 potato halves, and 1 ½ cups salad)

Nutrition Facts: 410 calories, 12 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 30 g protein, 49 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 800 mg sodium

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