Written by Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist Lauren McNeil
Known as “Heart Health Month” in the US, February is all about the heart and giving it some love. Your heart pumps the brain and body with the oxygen and the nutrients they need, so if you’re aiming for optimal health, then having a happy, healthy heart should be a priority. This February, consider making a few diet tweaks to make your heart happy—and healthier. Whether you choose to focus on heart health for prevention or to reverse damage, your entire body will thank you.
Through proper diet alone, you can lower your risk of heart attack by more than 60 percent—something that neither surgery nor medication alone can match. Eating a heart-healthy diet also reduces cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Focusing on foods that are plant-based, whole foods lowers these levels and raises HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels.
Research shows that you can actually reverse heart disease through a plant-based diet. Plants naturally lack trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. They’re nutrient-dense versus calorie-dense, meaning they provide you more nutrients than empty calories.
In order to give your heart some love, ditch these three ingredients and follow the five tips below for reversing heart disease:
Ditch These Ingredients
1. Trans fats
: examples include processed foods made with canola or vegetable oils and certain peanut butters that list “hydrogenated oil” as an ingredient; naturally found in meat and dairy products.
2. Saturated fats
: found in junk foods and animal products.
: found in all animal-derived foods.
Notice a pattern? Most animal-derived and processed foods aren’t beneficial for our cardiovascular system, especially if consumed in excess over a long period of time.
So what can you eat to support heart health? Check out the list below of foods that are easy to add into your diet. Start reversing your heart disease today with these five tips.
Follow These Nutrition Tips
1. Consume four Brazil nuts each month
; yes, you only need one per week! This can help lower cholesterol levels for up to 30 days. Try it out, and see what happens at your next checkup.
2. Add more Omega-3 fats
into your diet. You’ll find Omega-3s in wild salmon, Brussel sprouts, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and hempseed. You can simple sprinkle the seeds on a salad or add the flaxseeds or hempseeds to baked goods or your favorite smoothie recipe.
3. Increase your intake of fiber
from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans or legumes. Aim for a minimum of 30 grams per day.
4. Drink more green tea.
Three to five cups per day can be beneficial for heart health and helps reduce the risk of heart disease, along with many other diseases.
! Whether it’s a 20-minute interval walk/run or a steady 45- to 60-minute walk, getting a little cardio exercise will bring numerous benefits to your cardiovascular health and will promote healthy blood flow as well.
Studies have shown that nine potentially modifiable risk factors (things we have control over, such as diet, exercise, smoking, etc.) account for approximately 90 percent of the risk of having a heart attack. This is actually good news because it assures us that heart disease is largely preventable.
“In terms of preventing or reversing heart disease … we don’t need vaccines or antibiotics, a simple fork will do.” ~ Dr. Michael Greger, MD, author of “How Not to Die”
Learn more about Sarasota Memorial's comprehensive cardiac care and heart failure services at smhspeaks.com/heart.
HealthFit Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist Lauren McNeil, MS, RD, LDN, counsels clients and presents on nutrition topics throughout Sarasota. Her true passion lies in functional medicine nutrition and in cultivating a mind-body approach toward disease prevention. If you’re interested in scheduling a nutrition consult, email her at email@example.com.