February 2021 Nutrition Blog
Love To/From The Heart
By - Ellen Levine, MS, RDN, EP
February, commonly known as heart month is a good time to check whether you are loving your heart by your thoughts and actions. Maybe you can take a moment to both ask yourself and think about some questions. Do I express gratitude to my heart for working so hard for me? If not, simply start saying thank you for pumping blood and nutrients throughout my body allowing it to function perfectly. Do I know my risk? What does your family tree look like, it may put you at higher risk depending upon your families cardiac history. Even if there is nothing alarming in your genetics, an annual check of your lipid, blood pressure and blood glucose level will provide much of the information you need to take the best care of your heart. Do I regularly exercise? Most of us are clear on the answer to this, but maybe you’re not clear. If you move for your activities of daily life, this is great, but your heart needs more than this. Schedule, at least three times per week an activity that will challenge you enough so that it would be difficult to maintain a conversation while doing it. Therefore, a leisurely stroll will not cut it! Finally, ask yourself about what you were eating. Am I eating a diet low in saturated fat? Do I get enough fiber? How often do I eat essential fatty acids or the good, heart-healthy fat? Maybe answering these questions is a challenge because you are unaware of sources of some or all of these nutrients.
Saturated fat is most often found in high fat meats, dairy, bacon and fried foods. Diet high in saturated fat are linked to elevated cholesterol and blood pressure and causes damaging inflammation in your arteries so you want to limit them. Fibers found in whole grains like oats, fruits especially berries, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Many foods are also fortified with fiber or by utilizing these natural sources of fiber will increase your vitamin and mineral intake and help you avoid added fats and sugars often found in process, fortified fiber products. Chances are that you have heard of omega-3 fatty acids and you probably know that fish, particularly wild caught salmon is a great source. What if you do not like salmon? Start by giving it another try. We need to introduce something to our palate 7 to 10 times before we develop a tolerance for it and when this works, we often develop a preference for it! You may have seen this work with children. If you’ve given this a mighty effort and you still can’t take it there are other fish options like tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies. Other sources include chai tea, flaxseed meal, walnuts, pistachios and almonds – all of which also provide fiber. Do not forget olive oil! The benefits of daily extroversion olive oil consumption has been experienced for centuries in the Mediterranean countries. This is best when eating it raw on a salad or as a replacement for butter on whole grain bread or anywhere you might use butter. It can be used in cooking, but best only when cooking at low temperatures. Also, stored in a cool, dark, dry place to maintain its benefits. Using this month as an opportunity to refocus your effort on taking care of your heart will result in a lifestyle that will only lead more positive action.
Love yourself by loving your heart!