February is heart month. According to a recent report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadians are in denial about their unhealthy lifestyles and how it is robbing them of years of living healthy. The report suggests that people are not tackling risk factors that can be managed. It also goes on to say that, although 90 percent of Canadians rated themselves as healthy, the reality is that nine out of 10 have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Risk factors for heart disease include things we cannot do anything about, like our genetics, our age or our sex. There are other things that we can change – these include improving our eating habits and getting off the couch. Doing this can help our hearts by managing other risk factors for heart disease like weight, blood pressure, blood sugars and blood cholesterol (lipid) levels.
Foods for Wellness
You have a lot of choices when it comes to healthy eating. To begin, pick one area where you can make a change right away. Then gradually add others.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
- Eat 8 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits per day
- Vegetables and fruits are naturally low in fat and add flavour and variety to your diet, plus they’re packed with fibre and essential vitamins and antioxidants
- Vary the colours of your fruits and vegetables for the best nutrition and, remember, vegetables should take up half of your plate at lunch and dinner
- Eat the whole fruit instead of drinking a glass of juice
Boost the whole grains
- Choose whole grain products such as sprouted whole grain breads, oats, barley, brown rice, whole grain pastas and cereals, bulgur, quinoa and millet
- Watch out for croissants, donuts, pastries and commercial muffins, they can be loaded with fat and sugar and are usually made from refined grains (white flour and white sugar)
Replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats
- Incorporate food sources of fat such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, olives, and avocados into your diet
- Eat fish more often for omega-3 fats
- Replace hard fats like butter, lard, margarine and shortening with oil whenever you can
- Eliminate foods with trans fats – foods that have hydrogenated fat or shortening listed in the ingredients – including many pre-packaged cookies, crackers, potato chips, and commercial baked goods
- Choose meats without excessive marbling and remove visible fat and take the skin off poultry
- Try to avoid bacon, bologna, sausages and other processed meats
Enjoy a plant-based source of protein at least once daily
- Baked beans, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans are great sources of protein and fibre and can help to keep your heart healthy
- Try soy products, such as tofu, tempeh or miso instead of meat
Choose lower fat dairy products
- While there is calcium and protein in dairy products, there can also be too much fat
- Use lower fat milk and yogurt (but not no fat)
- Use good quality cheese as a flavouring, such as feta cheese on a salad, or grated parmesan on pasta
- Choose plain yogurt and add your own fruit to reduce sugar intake
Shake the salt habit
- Everyone should reduce the amount of salt they eat by not adding salt to foods or to cooking
- Limit salty foods like commercial soups, salad dressings, sauces, pickles, deli meats, salty snacks and fast foods
- Flavour foods with delicious herbs and spices, lemon juice and garlic
Eating better is good for your heart – it will help with lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and reduce blood sugars or avoid diabetes altogether.
Also remember the importance of exercise for good health. Start by purchasing a pedometer and try to do 10,000 steps per day for heart health.
We have included a wonderful salmon stew in our healthy recipes to help you get started on heart healthy eating!