We all know that we celebrate Valentine’s Day in February, but did you know that it is also American Heart Month? Which makes February a great month to show some love for your heart and your health.

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States and has been for many years.1
  • About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that is, 1 in every 4 deaths – that is crazy!1

A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons to fight heart disease. For February, why not try and make easy changes to better your heart health? One of the best ways to do this is with the food—and here are a few of our favorite heart-healthy tips:

Variety, Variety, Variety! Eating a healthy diet that focuses on incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet is the key to health.

  • A diet rich in different foods, especially fruits and veggies, may help you have a healthy heart—and a healthier heart may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Try to focus on adding in foods that you are not eating a lot of now.  For example, recall what you ate yesterday (I know, it is hard to remember), but if you lack fruits or whole grains, that is a great place to start. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats as a regular part of your diet will set you up for a healthy and nutritious life.
  • Next time you go grocery shopping, try to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is an easy way to avoid the aisles that are filled with processed and packaged foods that are often high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. If you are interested in a personalized grocery store tour – feel free to reach out to us! We love to shop with clients for food!

Bye-Bye Saturated and Trans Fat! Limiting food items with saturated fat may help lower cholesterol levels over time. When reading labels, trans fats will be listed as “hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils”.

  • By decreasing saturated and trans fats, sodium, red meat, and added sugars over time will have a positive effect on your heart and overall health.  One sneaky place trans fats show up is in peanut butter. Make sure to check the ingredients list of the packaged foods you purchase.
  • Trans fats can increase “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL “good” cholesterol levels. They are added to some packaged foods, so read ingredient labels to keep foods with partially hydrogenated oils out of your shopping cart.

Don’t Get Salty!  American Heart Association’s current guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake to no more than 1,500 mg/day.2 However, on average, most Americans consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium/day.2

  • Instead of reaching for the salt, try using fresh or dried herbs such as cilantro and basil or spices like black pepper, turmeric and garlic powder to give a flavor boost to the foods.
  • Acids such as citrus or kinds of vinegar are also another way to add flavor without adding salt.
  • As always, cooking at home is by far the best way to control the amount of sodium we consume.

Let’s Get Cooking! This month, I encourage you to spend any amount of time over the weekend planning and prepping some meals for the week.

  •  If you are unsure of where to start, we recommend picking 1 or 2 new recipes to try each week to increase your excitement for healthy eating (check out our Facebook for links to great recipes).
  • Another easy way to prepare for the week is by batching cooking, for example, preparing brown rice or quinoa for the week as well as pre-roasted 3-4 different vegetables. During the week, you can mix and match your meals from items you cooked during the weekend.  Check out our recipes link for more inspiration – https://www.kailonutrition.com/recipes/.

Take this month to start thinking of ways of how you can improve upon your heart health. Also, start with small, gradual changes now that will lead to significant lifestyle changes over time.

Pick one or more areas to begin making changes to reduce your heart disease risk. Contact us to meet with Heather, registered dietitian if you need help getting started with implementing healthy lifestyle changes.

References:

Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Published December 2, 2019.

9 out of 10 Americans Eat Too Much Sodium Infographic. www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/9-out-of-10-americans-eat-too-much-sodium-infographic