Heart Healthy Nutrition Tips

Did you know February is American Heart Month!?

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in America and has been a leading cause of death for ~100 years. Heart disease kills 1 out of 4 people. Heart disease can cause chest pain, heart attacks, and stroke. The risk factors for developing heart disease are smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, overweight/obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Out of those 7 risk factors, 5 of them can be combated in the kitchen! The heart is one of the most important muscles in the human body. It is essential for life and living the lives we desire. Below you will find some heart healthy tips that you can implement into your life to start protecting your heart!


Limit the amount of saturated and trans fat you are consuming.

  • Try to consume more plant-based proteins like soybeans, beans, lentils, and nuts.
    • Try to go meatless for a few meals per week.
  • Add more fish into your diet!
    • Aim for two 4-oz servings per week.
  • Select only lean cuts of meat. Look for cuts labelled as ‘loin’ or ’round.’
  • Cut back on processed meats like hot dogs, salami, and bacon.
  • Avoid frying/fried foods. Try baking, broiling, stewing, or stir-frying!
  • Drain the fat off ground meats after cooking.
  • Try thickening sauces with evaporated fat-free skim milk instead of whole milk.
  • Move to lower fat dairy products such as skim or 1% milk, yogurt, cheeses, and creams.
  • Use vegetable oils instead of butter and margarines.
    • Think liquids at room temperature.
  • Make your own salad dressings with olive oil.

Reduce the Salt/Sodium.

  • Foods prepared at home tend to have lower amounts of salt compared to restaurants or already prepared foods.
  • Use as little as salt as possible during cooking.
    • I bet you have a cabinet full of great seasonings and spices. Don’t be scared of them!
  • Add no additional salt at the table. Remove that salt shaker from the table.
    • Either salt at the table or salt while cooking. Just not both.
  • Look for low-sodium or no added salt products.
    • Rinse canned veggies with water to reduce salt content.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts Label. Select products with 5% or less Daily Value of sodium.
  • Find substitutes for crackers and chips such as unsalted nuts.
  • Watch portion sizes.
  • Know where salt may be hiding: breads, pastas, pizza, deli and cured meats, soups, cheeses, and other processed foods.

Aim to meet the DASH diet pattern for lowering blood pressure.
DASH = Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
To learn more, visit this link.

  • Per day:
    • 7-12 servings of fruits and veggies
    • 6-11 one-ounce servings of grains, especially whole grains
    • 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products
    • 6oz or less of lean meats, poultry, and fish
    • 2-3 servings of fats & oils (avoid trans and saturated fats)
    • Less than 2300mg of salt per day (2300mg = 1 teaspoon)
    • 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day (1 serving = 12oz beer, 5oz wine, 1.5oz liquor)
  • Per week:
    • 3-5 servings per week of nuts, seeds, and legumes
    • Keep sweets to a minimum, 5 or less servings per week

Get Moving!

Physical activity helps protect the heart by making it stronger, improving blood flow, and reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

  • You start seeing health benefits at 60 minutes of physical activity per week.
  • For major heart health benefits:
    • 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activities, or
    • 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activities

Moderate Intensity
Walking briskly
Heavy cleaning
Mowing lawn
Light bicycling
Tennis, doubles
Swimming

You should feel breath quicken but not out of breath, start to lightly sweat after 10 minutes, and you are able to talk but not sing.

Vigorous Intensity
Hiking
Running
Dancing
Bicycling fast
Basketball or soccer game
Tennis, singles

Your breathing will be deep and rigid, developing a sweat after just a few moments, and not able to talk without having to pause.

Other ways to sneak more movement into your busy day:
Take the stairs, park at the back of the parking lot, walk on your lunch break, set timers or reminders if you’ll be sitting for a while, exercise during commercials, get off the bus a stop earlier and walk, use a standing desk, dance a little, use the copier/fax furthest from desk, explore local parks, try walking meetings, meet friends for walks/exercise instead of dinner, etc.

Some other tips for success.

  • Find what works for you. Start slow and add new habits in as you are ready.
  • Become consistent, but remain flexible to barriers and struggles you may face.
  • Do things you enjoy so you don’t think of these healthier habits as chores.
  • If you fall off, don’t be discouraged, just start again.
  • Don’t do this alone. Build your support team. Ask someone to hold you accountable. Get your friends and families involved because their hearts matter too.
  • Develop a healthier sleeping pattern.
  • And remember, none of this matters if you don’t manage your stress properly.

To healthier hearts!
– The Martin’s Kitchen –

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