Hey Angels and Alphas,
It’s American Heart Month, and we’re all celebrating ways to keep your heart in tiptop shape. After all, if you can keep your heart healthy, you’ve pretty much got the keys down to a healthy lifestyle. We’re all aware of the statistics of how dangerous cardiovascular disease can be. And according to the CDC, high rates of high blood pressure and obesity among young people (mostly people from the ages of 35 to 64) are being put at risk of heart disease earlier in their life.
In fact, nearly 50 percent of all Americans have at least one of the three risk factors for heart disease: smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Of course, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and eating a healthy, heart-friendly diet can go a long way toward preventing these problems and staying in great shape. Below, we’ll explore five nutrition strategies by registered dietitians that will allow you to celebrate Heart Month by making smarter, heart-healthier choices.
Let’s get started.
#1. Consume more high-fiber foods to lower your bad cholesterol.
Explore this article published in Harvard Health – it concludes that the notion that a diet abundant in fiber can prevent heart disease actually dates back all the way to the 1970s. And guess what – evidence to support that idea piling up since then. We know there are two types of fiber—insoluble and soluble—and foods that are naturally high in soluble fiber are well known to help you lower your cholesterol back to healthy levels.
Here’s a tip you can apply – swap out your usual sweetened breakfast cereal and eat oatmeal with some fruit instead. Oats are very high in soluble fiber.
#2. Increase your intake of Omega-3 Fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as the “healthy” fat, are known to help your heart in countless ways. Including, but not excluded to, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and managing proper cholesterol levels. There are many types of omega-3s – some come from fish and some come from plants. Each have their own unique set of benefits.
Heart-health smart tip: Top all your salads with some walnuts instead of your usual croutons. Walnuts are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids.
#3. Remove or replace trans-fats with options that are less processed.
Trans fats are found in processed foods and they raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol all while lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol. These unhealthy cholesterol levels can sometimes cause a build-up in your arteries, further increasing your risk for heart disease. But you’re in luck because there are lots of ways to lower your intake of trans fats. The fewer the chips, cakes, snacks, you name it, the better.
Here’s a heart-healthy smart tip: for your breakfast, choose a whole grain pancake mix versus one of the conventional mixes. Whole grain mixes will typically contain less trans fats and even add a dose of fiber for a double win. And if you’re about to bake something sweet, you should instantly ditch the canned frosting, which is high in trans fats, and instead, make your own frosting with cream cheese, powdered sugar, and some vanilla on top.
#4. Reduce your intake of sodium and saturated fats.
Saturated fats are found in meat and dairy products, and they can also be a leading factor in raising your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol. Not only that, but too much sodium can increase your blood pressure, and it’s definitely something you should be avoiding in the long term.
Heart-healthy tip: are you craving a breakfast omelet? Why not choose avocado over the usual bacon or sausage? Breakfast meats notoriously are high in saturated fat and salt, and avocado is naturally rich in unsaturated fat and fiber, instantly making it a much better choice for a healthy heart.
#5. Add more foods to your diet that are rich in antioxidants.
Heart disease is (at least partially) caused by inflammation, and one of the best ways to combat inflammation throughout the body is to include a lot of antioxidant-rich foods in your diet… such as fruits and veggies!
Here’s a tip: add any veggie as a side to every single dinner you eat. Sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, all of them pack a ton of antioxidants, and any veggie intake is pretty much associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
When it’s time for dessert, simply make the switch from ice cream to low-fat yogurt with berries on top. The berries will provide a boost of antioxidants while the yogurt delivers healthy probiotics that keep your immune system functioning well.