Eating for Heart Health

February is National Heart Month, and since it is just around the corner, more and more people have begun to think once again about their own heart health. It is no secret that heart health is very important, but many people often do not know where to get started when it comes to learning about their options. A lack of information and education is one of the biggest hurdles most people have to get over before they can begin to do something about their own heart health. Read on to get started on your first step toward a healthier, happier heart.


National Heart Month

What exactly does National Heart Month mean? This important annual event focuses on the causes, treatment, and prevention of heart disease in American adults. Unfortunately, 25% of all deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease. It is the goal of National Heart Month to educate individuals on their options and potential risk factors when it comes to this life threatening illness. Throughout the month of February, the American Heart Association sponsors various events around the country to help educate the population about heart disease and how to maintain a healthier heart. Through these events, doctors and nurses are encouraged to share their knowledge with local communities, and to teach individuals and families how to make a difference in their own lives. You can get started early by learning how to eat better to improve the health of your most vital organ.


Cut Back On Fats

Trans fats and saturated fats are not good for your heart or for the rest of your body, either. Cutting back on both of these unhealthy types of fat can help lower your cholesterol, which in turn keeps blood flowing freely through your arteries and reduces your risk of artery disease. Saturated fats should make up less than 7% of your daily caloric intake, and trans fats should comprise less than 1% of what you eat in a day. Trans fats are much more dangerous, but you can cut them out by cooking with healthy oils instead of butter or shortening. In some cases, you might even be able to cut out fats and oils from your cooking altogether! If this is not possible, consider even healthier alternatives, such as avocado in place of butter in certain recipes.


Watch Your Portions

No matter what you eat, watching your portion control is a good way to help lose or maintain your weight and keep your heart operating as it should. Even if you’re eating a lot of salad or other healthy choices, it is possible to consume far too many calories in a day by piling your plate with too much food. Never eat until you feel too full. It is best to always stop before you feel uncomfortable, to allow yourself to digest fully without packing in even more calories you do not need. If you have trouble controlling how much food you take, consider using a smaller plate, like a salad plate, to help you feel like you are eating more. Learn what a serving size of grains looks like versus a serving size of meat or vegetables, and you will be well on your way to heart-healthy eating in no time.


Eat Your Vegetables

Of course, no item on the dinner menu is as healthy as a nice serving of vegetables (or sometimes fruit). Fruits and veggies both provide plenty of minerals and vitamins, and some have even been shown to help with weight loss by increasing the amount of fiber in your daily intake. When you eat more vegetables and fruits, you will be less likely to reach for high fat content foods, which will only make your heart that much healthier. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as opposed to canned items that may be packed with sodium. If you do eat canned fruit, be sure it is packed in water or in its own juices, and never in syrup. Limit vegetables that have been fried, since the breading and oils used in their preparation will negate all the benefits of the veggie itself. Remember that raw and fresh is always better!


Focus On The Right Foods

There are several different foods that can make your heart healthy diet that much easier (and delicious). Fill up your plate with these tasty ingredients and you can be sure you are making a difference for your whole body.

Salmon: Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon and other similar fish are known for reducing plaque in the arteries and helping with irregular heart beats. Consume fatty fish like salmon two or three times a week. Do not eat too much fish in a week, however, due to the risk of mercury poisoning.

Citrus: Particularly in women, frequent consumption of citrus fruit can help reduce the risk of blood clots and associated problems such as clot-related stroke. Vitamin C and flavonoids are both present in citrus fruits, and they both help blood move properly and keep your heart beating evenly.

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a fiber-filled breakfast treat that can help reduce cholesterol by soaking it up and moving it out of the body. Eat old-fashioned oatmeal that you prepare on the stove rather than the instant variety, which is usually full of sugar. Add a little honey and cinnamon instead of plain white sugar for healthy flavoring alternatives.

Tomatoes: Load up on tomatoes to enjoy the benefits of having plenty of potassium in your diet. Potassium is great for your body overall, and since tomatoes are high in antioxidants, they help move bad cholesterol out of your system while leaving the good. Best of all, they are a flavorful addition to just about any meal!

Blueberries: Fill up on blueberries to help reduce your risk of having a heart attack. When you consume blueberries at least three times a week, you receive tons of antioxidants that can help reduce your blood pressure and keep your heart pumping at a healthy r