Healthy heart, healthy you: Nutrition tips for American Heart Month - News - freetxp

Healthy heart, healthy you: Nutrition tips for American Heart Month – News

Nutrition plays a role in building a resilient heart to battle against disease and can be done through small changes, like reducing sodium intake and excess saturated fats.

Written by: Jessica Jernigan
Media contact: Adam Pope

HHHY InsideFebruary is a time when we keep matters of the heart close. Between American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, it is a great opportunity to focus on adopting a healthier lifestyle to prevent cardiovascular disease — the No. 1 leading cause of death in the United States.

Nutrition plays a huge role in building a resilient heart to battle against disease and can be done through small changes.

Substitute, do not restrict

Tara Harman, instructor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Nutrition Sciences, encourages a focus on whole, unprocessed ingredients for heart health by reducing sodium intake and excess saturated fats, both of which can raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels leading to risk factors for heart disease.

Most Americans consume higher levels of sodium and saturated fats than suggested. The average adult diet should incorporate less than 10 percent of its calories from saturated fats and 2,300 mg of sodium per day or less.

Sandwiches for lunch are a common lunch-box must-have, but deli meat can hold an excessive amount of sodium. Instead of a sandwich every day for lunch, Harman advises switching up your meal a few days a week for a more balanced diet.

“A great way to combat eating a sandwich every day is to make an extra serving at dinner to pack for lunch the next day,” Harman said. “My favorite lunches are often ‘mini dinners.’ It is an alternative way of framing what you would typically have for lunch. Instead of deli meat, maybe it is a leaner chicken breast with rice and vegetables on the side.”

Chia Seed Dessert Recipes
Easy Chia Seed Pudding

1 cup milk of choice
¾ cup chia seeds
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder

1. In a small container (such as a mason jar) add milk and chia seeds.
2. Then add vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Stir well until combined.
3. Transfer to the refrigerator and let sit until chia seeds absorb the milk and expand (about 8 hours).
4. Before serving, stir again to incorporate any clumps of chia seeds.
5. For added freshness, top with fresh fruit like raspberries or strawberry slices.

Omega-3: Another way to say “I love you”

Outside of substituting or limiting certain ingredients, like sodium and saturated fats, there are various ways to add nutritious elements to boost a healthy heart.

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish like salmon, may reduce inflammation throughout the body, leading to a stronger heart.

“For kids especially, it is important to introduce them to these types of foods early on to promote good heart health habits,” Harman said. “Children’s palates may not be as advanced as adults’, but salmon can be mild enough for them to try.”

Harman says to gravitate toward fatty fish as it is an excellent source of protein and can be elevated with colorful sides, such as vibrant greens or a salad with strawberries or pomegranate seeds.

Incorporate a sweet treat

Choosing nutritious choices for heart health not only reduces risk for heart disease but can improve overall quality of life.

“Bodies thrive on whole ingredients,” Harman said. “Processed foods have an excessive amount of sugar, so if you are experiencing blood sugar spikes and crashes throughout the day, that can have a large impact on mood and mental health.”

For a sweet, fun treat to make and share with your loved ones, consider fresh raspberries with chocolate chips inside, Harman says.

“Chia seed pudding is another great dessert option for incorporating omega-3s,” Harman said. “Try adding cocoa and fresh fruit. It can taste like chocolate pudding, but it is a more health-focused option.”

Focus on what is important

“Holidays are often centered around food, but it is important to recognize the meaning of the day — spending time with people you love. By making conscious, healthy choices, we can support our own quality of life and the lives of others around us,” Harman said.

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