According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease accounts for 1 in 3 deaths in the United States, which is more than all forms of cancer and Lower Respiratory Disease combined. Since February is Heart Health month, there’s no better time to take control of your health by fine-tuning your diet. Here are some tips to get you started:
Watch the sodium! Too much salt in the diet moves fluid to the blood vessels increasing blood pressure. High blood pressure causes blood vessels to become stretched and the heart to work harder increasing risk for heart attack, stroke and death. Limit the amount of sodium in your diet by using fresh or frozen vegetables, and limiting cheese, bread, processed meats, and foods with a flavor packet or sauce.
Eat more fiber. Soluble fiber keeps your heart healthy by decreasing “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in your bloodstream. Sources of soluble fiber include beans, oats, oranges, lentils, Brussel sprouts, apples and nuts.
Eat less sugar. Diets rich in added sugars increase risk for heart disease even if you aren’t overweight. Added sugars are commonly found in sodas, juices, sports drinks, desserts, and breakfast cereals.
Use food labels. Food labels can help identify foods to choose and those to avoid. Take note of serving sizes and think about how many servings you are eating. Choose foods with under 400 calories, sodium closer to 140, and little to no added sugars. Check the ingredients to make sure trans fats, added sugars, and sodium aren’t hidden in the item. Learn more about reading food labels at the AHA website www.heart.org .
Taking small steps toward better nutrition can mean big changes for your health. Show your heart some love this month by using the tips listed here.
Written by Angela Stancil MS, RD, LDN