When it comes to diet, you’ve probably heard the term “heart-healthy” before; but what does that mean exactly? Heart-healthy foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean protein, and good-for-you unsaturated fats. As an added bonus, high-fiber heart healthy foods keep you fuller for longer.
Here’s the low down on how to keep your heart strong and healthy:
Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fat
The amount and kind of fat you eat makes a difference. Fat should make up 20 percent to 35 percent of your total calories, but only 10 percent of those fat calories should come from saturated fat. Research shows that eating too much saturated fat is not good for the heart. To limit saturated fat, select lean cuts of beef and pork and cut back on processed meats.
Unsaturated fat is a different story. This type of fat is beneficial for cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health. Foods like olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fat.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat, are helpful in preventing heart attacks. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are both sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The recommended intake for omega-3 fatty acids is 500 milligrams per day;that’s basically two 6-ounce servings of fatty fish per week.
A plant based omega-3-fat known alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found in flaxseeds and walnuts. Consume two tablespoons of ground flaxseed or one ounce of walnuts each day for optimizing heart health. Another option is cooking with flaxseed or walnut oils, or using them as salad dressing.
Fruits and Vegetables
According to MyPlate, fruit and vegetables should make up about half of a balanced meal. Not only are they low in calories and high in fiber and antioxidants, they also help regulate blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with potassium, a mineral that has been shown to lower blood pressure in clinical studies. Aim for 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day for blood pressure control. That’s at least two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables daily.
Prepare foods at home so you can control the amount of salt in your meals, and use as little salt in cooking as possible. You can cut at least half the salt from most recipes.
Select reduced-sodium or no-salt-added canned soups and vegetables.
Season foods with herbs, spices, garlic, onions, peppers and lemon or lime juice to add flavor.
February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to learning how you can lead a healthier lifestyle, keep your heart healthy and protect your loved ones from heart disease. Visit the TASTE Platform at the Dining Commons, which serves SPE Certified and heart healthy meals all year!