The American Heart Association’s (AHA) American Heart Month first took place in February 1964. Fifty-three years later, AHA continues to use February as a wake-up call for Americans to care for their hearts. American Heart Month serves as a crucial reminder because heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
What is encouraging is that heart disease is preventable by keeping heart health top of mind all year-round.
One of the top ways to decrease your risk of heart disease is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. For many, this means reducing the amount of meat consumed each week and replacing it with vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts. In fact, eating less meat and more fruits and veggies also lowers your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Becky Ramsing, RD, MPH, senior program officer at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health – Center for a Livable Future, and primary adviser for the Meatless Monday campaign, offers these simple tips to give your heart some lovin’ this February and beyond.
- Start your week with Meatless Monday. Try the wide variety of plant-based dishes – you’ll be surprised that there are many nutritious and delicious sources of protein besides meat.
- Eat more greens. Dark green vegetables are full of healthy minerals and nutrients that protect our heart. You can toss kale, chard or spinach into almost any cooked dish. Arugula adds a peppery zing to sandwiches, pizza and salads.
- Choose healthy fats, such as olive or canola oil, avocados and fish oils. Studies show that replacing saturated fats with healthy fats and oils is better for your heart than going low fat but adding refined flours and sugars in its place.
- For nutritious snacks, reach out for affordable, convenient peanuts or a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread. Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are also satisfying and contain heart healthy fat and minerals.
- Eat more whole grains. Whole grains contain more B-vitamins, fiber and health protective phytochemicals than refined flours and grains. Try a tasty, new grain such as quick-cooking farro or quinoa.
- Try beans or lentils for a few meals each week. People who eat more beans and legumes may have lower cholesterol and blood pressure and healthier weights. Lentils cook in under 40 minutes without soaking; canned beans are ready to go!
For recipes to romance your heart all year long, Meatless Monday is offering a free e-cookbook: We ♡ Comfort Food: Heart-Healthy Meatless Monday Recipes. The cookbook is available as a free PDF download from the Meatless Monday website: http://bit.ly/mmcomfort2