February is traditionally associated with hearts because Valentine’s Day falls right in the middle of the month. But starting February 1st, we all have another reason to be thinking about hearts as this is the start of National Women’s Heart Week. This annual event seeks to increase awareness about the #1 killer of American women, heart disease. There are many things women can do to lower their risk including lifestyle changes like getting more exercise, eating a heart healthy diet, and reducing the stress in their lives. Women also need to know the signs and symptoms of heart problems, especially those that are different from the symptoms experienced by men. Women need to understand the risk factors so that they can make the right choices to safeguard their health. The awareness campaign runs from February 1-7 this year and will focus on prevention, education, intervention, and symptom awareness. For more information on National Women’s Heart Week, visit the Women’s Heart Foundation.
Here at Fill Your Plate, we understand that one of the best ways to protect your heart, no matter which gender you happen to be, is to eat a heart healthy diet. Changing your diet can be one of the hardest lifestyle changes to make, so to help you get a head start on beating your own battle against heart disease, here are some tips for how to eat to support the heath of your heart.
1. Size Matters
Sometimes it isn’t what you are eating, but how much you are eating that matters most. You may eat only the freshest foods and forego anything fatty or fried but even healthy fare isn’t good for your heart if you eat too much of it. Find out what an actual serving size looks like and spend this week measuring out each of your portions. You will be surprised how much more you are actually eating than you think you are eating.
2. Go for the Gold…and Green, and Red, and….
When it comes to getting a gold star for heart healthy eating, you can’t go wrong with vegetables and fruits. Eating a wide range of these foods provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs to thrive. A diet high is fruit and vegetables also provides some substances that may help prevent cardiovascular disease according to the Mayo Clinic.
3. Focus on Wholeness
This can apply to your mindset and your approach to life, both of which can have a big impact on your stress level, but is also applies to every grain that goes in your mouth. Choosing whole grains like brown rice, flaxseeds, or quinoa gives you more bang for your buck. These foods are a good source of fiber but they also provide other nutrients that can help regulate blood pressure and keep your heart healthy. Simply start swapping in whole grain options in place of the refined and processed grain products you eat today.
4. Skip the Salt
There was a time when salting your food made good sense, unfortunately for most of us, it is no longer that time. Much of the food we eat today has sodium in it which means we are generally exceeding the 2,300 mg per day recommended by the USDA. It may take a little time to convince your taste buds that food tastes good without the extra salt, but the overall impact to your health is worth watching how much sodium you are getting each day.
Following these four tips will get you moving towards a more heart healthy diet. For more information on other changes you can make, check the American Heart Association’s website or follow the dietary guidelines recommended by the USDA.