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  • Writer's pictureSophie Lauver

Heart-Healthy Nutrition: Nourishing Your Heart for American Heart Month

As we dive into February and think about Valentine’s Day, it's only fitting that we also turn our attention to matters of the heart – specifically, the health of our cardiovascular system. February is American Heart Month, and as a Registered Dietitian, I’m working to raise awareness about dietary habits that can reduce our risk for heart attack and stroke.

One of the most impactful ways to care for our hearts is through nutrition. The food choices we make each day can significantly influence our heart health. 

Here are six tips to help you nourish your heart and make positive changes to your diet:

1. Embrace a Colorful Plate:

Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meals. Colorful produce is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support heart health. Aim for a rainbow of colors on your plate, from leafy greens to berries and carrots.

2. Choose Whole Grains:

Opt for whole grains over refined (white) grains. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat provide fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full so you don’t overeat. 

3. Prioritize Healthy Fats:

Limit saturated and trans fats as these can clog our arteries and raise our cholesterol. Eat fewer fried foods, partially hydrogenated oils, processed snacks, animal products, full-fat dairy, baked goods, and tropical oils. Instead, incorporate sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

4. Limit Added Sugars and Sodium:

Reduce your intake of added sugars and sodium. High levels of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and high levels of added sugars can affect our blood sugar and cause weight gain. Check nutrition labels and try to eat less than 2300mg of sodium per day and less than 10% of your total calories as added sugars. 

5. Prioritize Lean Proteins:

Choose lean protein sources like fish, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and tofu. Plant-based proteins are a great choice since they contain beneficial fiber and no saturated fat.

6. Stay Active:

Combine a heart-healthy diet with regular physical activity. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise that you enjoy to keep your heart in top shape.

Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all approach. For personalized recommendations and to discuss your specific nutritional needs, speak with a registered dietitian. 

This American Heart Month and throughout the entire year, show your heart some love with wholesome and nourishing foods. Small, sustainable changes in our daily habits can lead to long-term benefits for our cardiovascular health. 


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