Thanks to Valentine’s Day, February tends to be all about matters of the heart. While you may be celebrating your significant other, the love of friends or family, or cherishing the memories of a lost love, this month is also a good time to pay attention to your heart muscle and make sure you’re doing what you can to take care of it.
One of the most important ways to care for your heart is with the things you eat. I don’t know about you, but as much as I love to cook, I don’t always have the time, energy, or resources to make complicated, super healthy meals. When I need simple, realistic, and proven ways to increase the nutritional value of my meals, I turn to my good friend Bethany for advice. Bethany is a Registered Dietitian and the brains behind The Kansas City Dietitian. I spoke with Bethany this month to get some practical tips to help us keep our hearts beating healthier. Here’s what she said:
- Aim to eat two-to-three vegetables a day. To keep it simple, try for one per meal. Frozen and canned vegetables count too! Just be sure to rinse off your canned veggies before you eat them, which reduces the sodium by about 40%!
- Look for less processed foods. Higher processed foods have more sodium, because salt is what’s used in processing. Higher sodium intake can have a negative effect on your blood pressure. Try cooked chicken breast or low sodium lunch meat on your sandwiches instead of regular deli meat. Munch on nuts instead of pretzels for your afternoon snack. Cook some quinoa instead of white rice as a side dish for your dinner. Satisfy your sweet tooth by drizzling some dark chocolate over fruit instead of reaching for a cookie. These small choices will reduce your sodium intake and can help lower your blood pressure.
- Focus on quality carbs. When it comes to cholesterol, not all carbs are created equal. Quality carbs help lower cholesterol and have the added bonus of keeping you feeling fuller longer because of the extra fiber. Great examples of quality carbs include fruits, whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, and potatoes.
Choosing heart-healthy foods doesn’t have to be complicated. Try incorporating these simple tips to support your heart this month, and don’t forget to add activities like walking and balance exercises if you’re able!