During the month of February we hear a lot about heart health. But do you know how to keep your heart healthy? The key steps are to exercise regularly, keep a healthy weight, and don’t smoke or use tobacco products. In addition to those steps, your diet is extremely important to heart health, so I’ve put together five heart healthy tips that can help to keep a healthy weight and prevent heart disease.
- Eat foods with plant Sterols and Stanols. Plant Sterols and Stanols are compounds found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They help lower cholesterol by blocking their absorption. You will also find them added to some margarine spreads found in tubs, cereals, and orange juice. Here is a free app that will help you track your fruits and vegetable intake. www.munch5aday.com.
- Eat omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s have been found to lower blood levels of unhealthy fats and improve blood pressure. Eating two 4 ounce servings of a fatty fish such as Salmon a week is a great way to get your Omega 3’s. Not a fan of Salmon? You can get a similar effect from other fish such as mackerel, Atlantic herring, fresh Albacore tuna, sardines and lake Trout. Not a fan of fish? Omega 3’s are also found in walnuts and cooking oils such as Canola, flaxseed and soy bean.
- Limit the intake of salt (sodium). A high sodium intake can affect blood pressure. The best way to lower the intake of sodium is to limit the intake of processed and canned foods such as frozen entrees and soups. There are no natural foods that are high in sodium.
- Limit the intake of trans fat. Eating foods with trans fats can increase the levels of unhealthy fats in the blood. Check ingredient lists for the term “partially hydrogenated” to avoid trans fats. Trans fats are found in stick margarine, shortening, bakery products, crackers, packaged snack foods and deep fried fast foods.
- Occasionally savor a piece of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65% or higher eaten in small amounts (3 ounces) have shown some heart health benefits.