Did you know that February is National Heart Health Month? The goal of this month is to spread awareness about heart disease and how to prevent it. Why is this important? Current statistics estimate that every year in the United States, 1 in 4 deaths can be attributed to heart disease. If you’re a college student, you might be thinking, “I’m young, why should I be concerned about that right now?” The simple answer to that is people at every age should always monitor their health and manage their lifestyle in a healthy way. Making good lifestyle and diet choices at a younger age, greatly contributes to the delay, or even evasion, of these deadly heart diseases as well as others that come with age.
So, how can we take care of our heart through nutrition? Here are some tips for making heart healthy choices.
- Reduce Added Sugars: The American Heart Association recommends reducing overall added sugar consumption. Many processed foods contain added sugars, and a quick look at the nutrition label will tell you just how much you are getting per serving. Try finding alternative options that cut down on that added sugar, or better yet, go for the whole food alternative. Some of my favorite low sugar snacks are a part skim cheese stick with a clementine, celery with natural peanut butter and a few raisins and hard boiled eggs topped with guacamole.
- Limit Saturated Fats: The AHA also suggests limiting overall consumption of saturated fats (unhealthy fats) and increasing plant-based fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats). Good sources of these heart healthy fats include; avocados, nuts, peanut butter, olive oil, and other vegetable oils. Remember, not all fats are bad, in fact they are very essential to proper absorption of certain nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Add 2% milk, avocados and trail mix to your grocery list to enjoy some healthy fats!
- Limit Salt Intake: Finally, AHA also says that limiting salt intake, especially from processed food sources, will greatly increase cardiovascular health. Keep in mind, too much salt in the diet results in excess fluids being contained in our blood vessels, this will result in high blood pressure. Try reaching for fresh seasonings instead of the salt shaker, cook with cilantro, scallions, cinnamon and cumin to add some extra flavor! Now that you’ve gained a little bit more information about good nutrition, think about what you’re eating before you grab it off the shelf and remember try to choose the options in the dining center with the heart next to them. Happy Heart Health Month!