Happy Heart Month Ravens! February marks the month dedicated to bringing attention to the importance of cardiovascular health, and what we can do to reduce our risk. We can all reduce our risk of heart disease by making healthy lifestyle choices including quitting smoking, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet! Read further to learn about dietary changes that we can make to optimize heart health.

The DASH Diet

The DASH Diet has been shown to improve blood pressure levels. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The DASH Diet is higher in vegetables and fruit, as well as low-fat dairy foods. It also emphasizes consuming whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish, nuts, seeds and dry beans. It also limits sodium intake to 1500-2300 mg each day.  It is an eating pattern that is lower in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol.

Consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal. This makes the heart work harder than usual, and can lead to heart disease.

Did you know that using the salt shaker and adding salt during cooking and at the table accounts for only a small amount of our sodium intake? The main source of sodium in our diets is actually from processed foods like canned soups, pre-packaged snacks, frozen meals, and deli meats. So when buying packaged foods, check out the Nutrition Facts Table for the sodium! Look for foods that contain less than 360mg of sodium per serving, or less than 15% daily value of sodium.

To further reduce sodium in your diet, try out these tips and tricks!

  • Cook at home more often using whole ingredients as much as you can.
  • Flavor foods with herbs and spices more often. Taste your food before adding salt.
  • Choose canned vegetables, beans, peas and lentils with no sodium added.
  • When eating out, choose smaller portions and ask for gravy, sauces and salad dressings on the side

The Mediterranean Diet

More of an eating pattern than a traditional diet, the Mediterranean Diet is the traditional way of eating in Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy. It is a primarily plant-based eating pattern that includes daily intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. Healthy fats are emphasized; olive oil is recommended as the primary added fat, and other foods high in heart-healthy fats such as nuts, seeds and fatty fish are consumed often.

Why do we <3 the Mediterranean Diet? A 2018 study of nearly 26,000 participants found that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet is linked to up to 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Top 5 tips to follow the Mediterranean Diet

  • Eat a variety of whole grains such as oats, brown rice, whole grain bread and barley
  • Choose healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado often
  • Eat fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, herring or sardines at least twice per week
  • Take the time to enjoy foods with friends and family

Monday, February 25, 2019 in , ,
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