H: High blood pressure is a major risk factor of heart disease. Approximately 1 in 3 people who develop high blood pressure can blame a high sodium (salt) diet. For some, excess sodium causes the body to hold onto extra fluid and that puts a burden on the heart. Sadly, about 97% of our children and adolescents eat too much salt and that puts them at an increased risk of developing heart disease as they get older.
E: Eggs have gotten a bad rap. They are an eggscellent lean protein choice. It’s the saturated fat content of foods (1 eggs has 1.6 g sat fat), not the cholesterol they contain, that has the greatest impact on our cholesterol levels. Even with high cholesterol, enjoy up to 7 eggs per week without guilt – include those in baked goods and combination foods, like meat loaf and casseroles.
A: Add fiber! Americans with the highest fiber intake have significantly lower estimated lifetime risk of heart disease. That’s great news. A high fiber diet can be a critical change toward long-term protection!
To increase your soluble fiber, try substituting quinoa (‘keen-wah’), barley or farro for refined grains like white rice and pasta.
Ground flaxseeds are rich in fiber and omega-3 fats and should be ground or they’ll pass through the GI tract undigested.
T: Think about fat! There are unhealthy fats and healthy fats. Some may contribute to heart disease and other fats may help to prevent it! Lose animal fat and saturated fats in coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil. Gain mono- and polyunsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, olive and canola oils.
Keep in mind that all fat has 9 calories per teaspoon so it can add up quickly. If weight management is an issue, consider reducing your total fat intake, even good fats.
Y: Say yes to planning. Planning, as in meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking modifications can go a long way in helping you stick to your heart-healthy goals. In the beginning especially, it takes a little time to get used to planning a weekly menu, but soon it will be a breeze. Use menu plans you might find online or start with what you’re used to eating, foods you really like. Then think of new ideas, perhaps from recipes in cookbooks or magazines. Write down 4-5 dinner plans. In time, you may even begin to modify favorite family recipes using a substitutions chart to help you know what are the most optimal ingredients. Use the MyPlate method in planning meals: one-half the plate filled with colorful fruits and veggies, one-quarter with lean protein and the other quarter with a starch or whole grain. Don’t forget the low-fat dairy.
Next, write your grocery list. There are great online grocery list sites and apps that can make this a breeze – there’s a pen and paper, too! Make sure to include breakfast, lunch, and healthy snack items on your grocery list, as well as staples that align with your new eating style. Then, list all the ingredients you need for the dinners and you’re all set.
Happy Heart Health month!