Your heart works hard every day to take care of you, but when was the last time you stopped to think about what you can do to nourish for your heart?
February is Heart Health Month. ❤ Taking care of your heart’s health may not be at the top of your list. Unfortunately, too many of us take this amazing organ for granted, and heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. The good news is that heart disease for many people is preventable. One strategy for taking care of your heart is proper nutrition – feeding the body nutrients that promote health and life.
The leading factors contributing to heart disease are poor eating habits, weight problems, lack of physical exercise, stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation. All of these derive from our behavior, not our nature. The good news is that we can make changes and turn our situation around if we choose to. Here are some tips on how to nourish your heart.
Ditch the Sugar
Currently, in the states, our average daily intake of sugar is 77 grams per day. That is 19 teaspoons. The recommended daily amount is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons. We typically relate diets that are higher in sugar or refined carbohydrates to just blood sugar issues. But eating to much-added sugar and refined starchy foods can increase triglycerides. Studies suggest that elevated triglycerides are more strongly tied to heart risk in people with lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and in those with Type 2 diabetes.
Load up on Good Fats
For years, a low-fat diet was touted as heart healthy. However, what we’ve learned is that actually, a diet that is rich in healthy fats is better for the heart. Healthy fats that are in avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, coconut oil and fatty fish will help to tame inflammation. When you eat healthy fats as part of your meal, they slow down absorption so that you can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Cut out unhealthy processed vegetable oils to reduce inflammation related to an unhealthy ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids to Omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are loaded with excess sugar and mass-produced vegetable oils. Choose real whole foods over processed bread, cereal, pasta, chips, cookies…
Eat the Rainbow
A diet rich in a variety of fruits and veggies will keep your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape. One study shows that for every serving of fruits and veggies eaten daily the risk of cardiovascular disease is reduced by 4 percent. Choosing veggies over fruit will help to keep your blood sugar balanced. Aim for five to nine servings of veggies per day and up to two servings of fruit per day.
Grains are carbs that are just a step away from being broken down into glucose (sugar) by the body. Avoid processed grains like bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, cake… Having a few unprocessed whole grains like steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa or rice is fine but limit your serving size to ½ cup per meal.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep is when your body is busy repairing, refreshing and rejuvenating just about every organ in your body, including your heart. So if you want to keep your heart, body and mind healthy, work on getting enough quality sleep.
Aim for a healthy weight.
Today, 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Carrying excess weight is a risk factor for heart disease. Carrying too much weight can also increase the likelihood of other problems that put your heart in danger, like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you are overweight, even a modest amount of weight loss – just 5-10 percent – can have measurable benefits for your heart health
Healthy Heart Meal Guidelines
One of the best overall diets for your heart is to eat REAL WHOLE FOOD. Eliminate all processed foods, including bread, cereals, pasta, chips, cookies…. A heart-healthy meal is: 50% should consist of slow-burning, low-glycemic carbs from veggies, 30 – 40% healthy fats and 10 – 20% protein. It includes fresh veggies in season, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, organic poultry. Limit fruit to 1 – 2 small servings per day. If you do eat grains, eat small amounts of non-gluten gluten whole grains like quinoa, teff or brown rice.
Book a consult with Nutrition Savvy
Last but not least, meet with Jori! I can help you come up with a customized meal plan that will revolve around your food preferences and lifestyle. I'm here to help you achieve your health goals.
Hello! I'm Jori Zimmerman, a nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Savvy. I work with individuals that are looking to make dietary and lifestyle changes that will lead them to living a healthier and higher quality of life.