When we think of February, we often think of love, candy hearts, and chocolate. However, many don’t realize that February also focuses on a different kind of heart — the anatomical heart! February is American Heart Month. The purpose of American Heart Month is to focus on cardiovascular health and raise awareness about the importance of a healthy heart. One of the best ways to start focusing on your cardiovascular health is by eating heart-healthy foods!
The Importance of Heart Health
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? Additionally, high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Whether heart conditions run in your family or not, it’s still vital to take preventative measures by implementing heart-healthy lifestyle habits. Staying physically active, avoiding smoking, getting quality sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight are all steps you can take to focus on heart health. With that being said, one of the best places to start is in the kitchen! Check out these heart-healthy foods to implement in your diet to benefit your heart.
The Key to a Heart-Healthy Diet
When it comes to implementing a heart-healthy diet, there are a few items to focus on. First and foremost, it’s important to limit sodium and saturated fat intake. Additionally, try to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lastly, eating foods like fish, nuts, beans, poultry, and fat-free dairy products is beneficial as well. While completely changing your diet can be difficult, making small incremental changes will make a difference over time. With that said, you don’t have to eliminate sugary foods and foods high in saturated fat entirely — just try to limit them! Try eating more of these heart-healthy foods like:
Avocados have become a rather trendy food, with dishes like avocado toast quickly becoming a fan favorite. Not only are avocados delicious and popular, but they also have many benefits for heart health! In fact, they are high in monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and, in turn, lower the risk of heart disease. Whip up some avocado toast for breakfast, or add it into a smoothie to make it extra smooth. There are many different ways to incorporate avocados into your diet!
Swap out the typical baked potato for a sweet potato! Sweet potatoes are high in potassium. Increasing your potassium intake helps excrete more sodium, which helps lower blood pressure! Try baking your sweet potato, cutting it into thin pieces to make sweet potato fries, or even adding cinnamon to create a sweet treat. There are many different ways you can prepare sweet potatoes. Whether you’re in the mood for sweet or savory, they can give you the best of both worlds!
Leafy greens like spinach and kale also contribute to a healthy heart. They contain a large amount of vitamin K, which helps protect arteries. While eating salads is a great way to increase your leafy green intake, it certainly isn’t the only way! Add kale or spinach into a smoothie. This is a sneaky way to mask the flavor with a variety of fruits while still getting the benefits of leafy greens.
Salmon is packed full of nutrients that promote a healthy heart. It’s a good source of vitamin B12 and potassium, and it’s low in saturated fat, all of which helps to minimize the risk of heart disease. Not to mention, salmon is also high in omega-3. Omega-3 has numerous benefits, lowering the risk of some types of cancer, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and of course, cardiovascular disease. Not only is salmon full of nutrients, but it’s also absolutely delicious! There are numerous different ways to serve salmon, so find a dish that suits your taste.
By implementing more of these heart-healthy foods into your diet, you can begin taking steps to focus on your cardiovascular health. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be a drastic change! Instead, start by adding in heart-healthy foods little by little until it becomes second nature. This American Heart Month, educate yourself on the benefits of different foods so that you can understand the importance of a heart-healthy diet. For more on heart health, check out our blog HERE for some heart-healthy tips.
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