In honor of American Heart Month, this week we will look at heart health and what you can eat for a healthier heart. The Centers for Disease Control notes even small changes in your diet and lifestyle can lead to healthier changes for your heart. Why be concerned about heart health? CDC states, “heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women”. Another great source of information is The American Heart Association, the go to place for questions about heart health and how to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle. What are some of their recommendations in terms of healthier eating and exercise?
Eating for a healthy heart: Small steps to take
- Eat at home at least 3 times a week. By skipping the fast food and restaurant meals you can prepare meals that are lower in fat, especially meals lower in saturated fat, and lower in sodium.
- Use more herbs and spices when cooking – keep the flavor while cutting back on the amount of salt in a recipe.
- Focus meals on foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Cut back on sugary drinks – those with added sugar like sodas
- Focus on healthier fats – look for olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and healthier fats in avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish
According to the American Heart Association a heart healthy eating plan focuses on:
- Adding more fruits and vegetables to your day – aim for at least 5 A DAY
- Whole grains for fiber, vitamins and a boost of minerals lacking or missing from white bread
- Enjoy dairy – but choose low fat. Milk – 1% or fat free, and low fat yogurt are good choices
- Baked Not Fried – choosing chicken and fish are great choices but frying adds fat and extra calories
- Nuts – have a handful a day – nuts are higher in fat but they have a heart healthy fat. I sprinkle chopped walnuts on my oatmeal for a nutrition boost. Try adding some chopped walnuts to a salad. California walnuts has many American Heart Association certified heart healthy recipes on its website at walnuts.org.
What about exercise and your heart?
Walking - The American Heart Association recommends walking as the easiest way to start improving your heart health. They note it is easy, free, enjoyable and a great way to get some exercise every day.
What about cardio and strength training? How much exercise does the American Heart Association recommend for a healthy heart?
Exercising for Overall Heart Health
- 5 Days a Week – do at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio/aerobic exercise for a total of 150 minutes a week OR
- 3 Days a Week – do at least 25 minutes of more vigorous cardio/aerobic exercise to get a total of 75 minutes a week
- Add Strengthening Exercise – at least 2 days a week
Exercise to lower blood pressure and your cholesterol
3-4 Times a week, do about 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardio/aerobic exercise
The 30 minutes of exercise doesn’t have to be done all at one time. Short on time? Then a 15-minute walk in the morning and a 15-minute walk at lunch or after work.
To read more about the American Heart Association’s recommendations for heart healthy eating, go to The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. Heart.org has recommendations for heart healthy eating, many heart healthy recipes and suggestions for dining out. To get whole grains, walnuts and fruits and vegetables into your day, try the Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula recipe.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control, exercise, The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations, heart healthy recipes, Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula Image source: Salad
|Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula|