February is National Heart Health Month and with the heart being one of the largest muscles in the body…I thought it would be fun to share some quick and easy tips for improving your nutritional heart health. Nutrition absolutely contributes to your health but it does not have to be in an all-or-nothing fashion. Try any one of the tips below to build it into your lifestyle overtime.
Vary your fruits and vegetables
Bet you saw that one coming! A healthy variety of fruits and vegetables not only increases your fiber intake but also improves your vitamin intake. You can improve your heart health simply by adding more color to your plate.
Incorporate Whole grains
Whole grains improve our cholesterol levels due to their fiber-rich content. Not sure if the product is whole grain? Read the ingredients on your labels and make sure the first ingredient says “whole.” Not every grain you eat needs to be whole, you could even go half-and-half if you’re trying to transition. For example, half brown rice and half white. Grains provide direct energy for the muscles and brain to function efficiently.
Power up with Protein
Animal sources include fish, chicken, turkey and eggs. Plant based sources include beans, lentils, and soy products such as tofu or tempeh. Red and processed meat (sausage, bacon, etc.) are slightly higher in saturated fat. You don’t need to eliminate them but varying the amount you eat can help reduce saturated fat intake.
Thinking of Fat
Fat is one of our macronutrients among carbohydrates and protein. There are various sources of fat and it is definitely our friend! However, there are different types of fat including unsaturated, saturated, and trans fat. The majority of the fat we consume we want to get from unsaturated sources such as olive/plant based oils, hemp hearts, flax meal, fish, avocados, and nuts. Saturated fat comes from meat and dairy and it’s okay to have some – focus in on moderation! Trans fat is something to watch for, most commonly we see it deep fried and highly processed food. A sneaky way it is added to products is under the name “partially or fully hydrogenated oil.”
Spice up your life
There are TONS of great spice combinations out there that can enrich any recipe instead of just using salt. I’m all about using some salt but in an effort to lower sodium intake, try using more spices instead. You can make your own taco seasoning with less salt using the following combo:
4.5 tsp chili powder + 4.5 tsp cumin + 0.25 tsp garlic powder + 0.25 tsp onion powder + 0.25 tsp dried oregano + 0.25 tsp salt
You could make a large batch of this and store it in an airtight container for up to three months. Mix the combination above and use three tbsp plus 1 tsp and ¼ cup water together and add to 1 pound of meat.
Balance your plate with more veggies
Try simply changing up your portion sizes to increase your vegetable intake. Once again, you’ll get more fiber and vitamins this way! Plus, we’re very accustomed to how we fill our own plate – the portions we prefer become habit/normal for us. Sometimes it’s helpful to re-evaluate and fill them a bit differently.
Eat slowly and joyfully
Oftentimes we overeat or eat past satisfaction because it takes a while for the brain and the gut to connect and tell us that we’re full. Sometimes we do eat past fullness because it’s just so gosh darn good – and that’s ok! But! It’s helpful to get more in touch with your fullness and satisfaction because it’s easy to be out of touch with your body. Try slowing down during meals or snacks to see if you can identify how satisfied or full you are.
Also, make sure you’re working to eat foods you enjoy! If we’re not enjoying what we’re eating, we will seek out that food later on, even if we’re not hungry.