March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. It's important to learn how you and your family can follow a heart-healthy diet.
The keys to heart health are eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium, replacing solid fats with healthy oils and including more foods high in fiber. Eating a well-balanced diet includes a combination of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.
Saturated fats is in fatty meat, butter and full-fat dairy products and should be limited. Trans fat should be completely avoided because it raised your LDL cholesterol, which increases heart disease risk. It is found in some fried foods and many processed foods. Eat more plant proteins such as beans and peas, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy foods. Start cooking with oils which are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
To add more fiber to your meals, switch out refined grains, such as white rice or bread, for whole-grain options such as brown rice and whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta.
Next time you are at the grocery store, pick up some of these heart-healthy items:
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Soybeans and tofu
- Fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned without added salt or sugar)
- Salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel
- Whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta, brown rice, barley
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts
Another way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to be active. Regular, moderate physical activity lowers blood pressure and helps your body control stress and weight. Be physically active in your own way, and start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults should get at least two hours and 30 minutes per week. Encourage your family to take a walk after dinner or play a game of catch or basketball.
For more heart-healthy cooking tips and information on reducing your risk for heart disease, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.