February is Heart Month! Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., with a staggering one in three deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, the best way to prevent heart disease is to follow Life’s Simple 7: Get Active, Control Cholesterol, Eat Better, Manage Blood Pressure, Maintain a Healthy Weight, Reduce Blood Sugar, and Stop Smoking. Below are some tips on how to Eat Better:
•DASH your way to a healthier heart. The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is consistently rated as one of the best diets for preventing cardiovascular disease and promoting overall health and wellness. The DASH diet emphasizes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, with some lean meat and low-fat dairy for protein. The DASH diet also encourages a lower sodium intake.
•Fill up with fiber. Fiber promotes regularity and fullness after a meal, but did you know that it can also help lower cholesterol? Fiber is found exclusively in plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Consider adding a digestive enzyme supplement to your daily routine if high fiber foods cause you gastrointestinal discomfort.
•Amplify your omega-3 intake. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that can help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like fatty fish (salmon and certain kinds of tuna), walnuts, flaxseeds, and fortified products. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available as supplements in liquid or capsule form.
•Go with the grain, whole grain that is. Whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, farro, spelt, and teff are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that promote heart health. Whole grains are also high in protein, so you can enjoy them as a main course instead of relegating them to a side dish.
•Use your bean and eat more beans. Beans are packed with protein and fiber, and are high in vitamins and minerals that support heart health. Add beans to soups, stews, and casseroles, or enjoy them on their own as a side dish or in a main course like tacos. With dozens of varieties to choose from, you’ll never run out of ways to use them.