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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Matters of the Heart: Nutrition For a Healthy Heart

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A heart being held in cupped hands
February is known as the month of Valentine’s Day, love, and chocolate. To go along with this heart theme, February also is American Heart Month, a time to spread awareness of one of the top problems our nation faces: heart disease.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. One in three people are estimated to have one or more types of cardiovascular disease, and it is the number one cause of death in women 20 years and older.  The stats for this serious disease can seem intimidating, but luckily, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by living a healthy lifestyle with a mix of diet, exercise, and stress relieving techniques. Oh, and DON’T SMOKE!

Nutrition is especially important when looking for ways to reduce your chance of developing heart disease. To make the most of the foods you eat, incorporate low-fat, high nutrient foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low at dairy and lean meats. Eat foods low in saturated fats and higher in mono and polyunsaturated fats, which can actually aid in heart health! The key is eating small portions of a variety of nutritious foods!

Foods to include:

  • all fruits
  • all vegetables
  • whole grain cereal, bread, pasta, and rice
  • low-fat or fat-free yogurt, milk, and cheese
  • lean meat, poultry, and seafood
  • olive oil, low-fat salad dressing
  • nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • fruit juices, tea, and coffee in moderation

Foods to limit:

  • refined grains
  • full fat dairy products
  • red and high-fat meat
  • butter
  • pastries and cakes
  • high sugar products

Choosing healthier foods will provide fiber and essential nutrients to keep your body healthy and energized. Shopping heart healthy can seem tricky, but it’s relatively easy to include your favorite foods in a diet that helps lower cholesterol and provides disease-fighting vitamins. Some of my favorites include:

  • almonds and walnuts for healthy fats
  • grape juice for antioxidants and healthy arteries
  • a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • oatmeal to aid in lowering cholesterol
  • salmon for omega-3 fatty acids
  • beans for fiber and nutrients
  • brown rice for fiber and a simple healthy dish

Eating heart healthy is fun and delicious! Eat an array of colors and variety for adequate nutrients, and keep portion sizes in check for a healthy heart and body.

For more information about heart disease and how you can get involved visit the American Heart Association website at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/. For more on living a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit Healthline's Heart Health Learning Center

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Tags: Nutrition

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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