We often think of hearts when it comes to February because of Valentine’s Day, but February is also American Heart Month! One of the best motivators for eating right and working out is to keep our hearts healthy and there is plenty of small changes you can make that have a huge impact!
One of the best suggestions for eating healthier for a healthy heart is to reduce sodium intake. Almost all processed foods have some type of salt added to help with flavoring and preserving the food. It is recommended to consume no more than 2300mg of sodium a day. The biggest key to reducing sodium intake is to read the back of food labels to see how much sodium is in each serving. You can also find foods that are low sodium or no sodium added for processed foods. Another great key is to not add salt to foods or cut back on the amount of salt recommended when cooking. Instead add different spices to make a dish more flavorful. You will taste a difference at first when you start reducing your salt intake, but as you continue with this healthy choice your taste buds will adjust! Reducing sodium is important for heart health because sodium actually increases your blood pressure. As your blood pressure rises, it causes your heart and blood vessels to work harder and can cause them to weaken.
Switching out at least half of your grains for whole grains is also a great way to keep the heart healthy. Whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains and fiber has been proven to reduce heart disease. Fiber actually binds with bile that helps break down fats to be absorbed. When the bile is bound it is unable to bind with fats and the fats are then removed from the body instead of being absorbed. This can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some examples of whole grains are oats, brown and wild rice, and whole grain products. The recommended fiber intake is 25g per day and with ABS Pancakes you can get a head start with 6g of fiber from one serving!
Another great source of fiber is fruits and vegetables. It is recommended to have about 2-3 cups of each a day for a healthy well rounded diet.
We often think it would be counter-intuitive to eat fatty fish for a healthy diet, but it is actually one of the best recommendations! Eating two servings of fatty fish a week, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines helps reduce heart disease because it contains omega-3, which is a fatty acid. Omega-3 can actually help to lower blood pressure and it is an anti-inflammatory.
Lastly, it is always important to reduce your intake of saturated fats to less than 10% of your total diet and to not consume foods with trans fats. This will help to reduce bad cholesterol, which will reduce the risk of heart disease.
Just choosing a goal of reducing sodium, eating two servings of fatty fish a week, or swapping refined grains for whole grains during the month of February can help increase your heart health!