Here are our dietitians’ top tips for eating for a healthy heart this February:
- Do not eliminate fat. You read that right. Contrary to dated evidence, fat free diets do not reduce risk of heart disease. We need small amounts of healthy fat at every meal in order to properly absorb our nutrients and nourish both our tissues and blood vessels. However, do not read this statement without reading #2 below!
- Do eat healthy fats and eliminate oxidative oils. Just because we need fat in our diets for heart health does not mean we need to slather butter over everything! TYPE of fat is key to healthy intake of fat. Oxidative omega6 fats DO harm us by accelerating inflammation and increasing cholesterol plaques. Anti-inflammatory omega3 fats do the exact opposite: they reduce sticky cholesterol by removing sources of inflammation and create a healthy blood flow!
- Oxidative fats to AVOID: sunflower oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, corn oil, margarine. Basically, minimize ultra-processed foods and cook more and you will be good!
- Healthy fats to ENJOY: extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, cold pressed avocado oil, grass fed ghee
- Higher saturated fats to use moderately & in small portions: coconut oil, grass fed butter
- Reduce added sugar and choose low glycemic sweets. Yes, sugar plays a big role in heart health, despite all the marketing for heart health being focused on fat. Sugar intake spikes insulin and dysregulated insulin stimulates inflammation which promotes cholesterol build up. Read ingredient lists for added sugar and aim for less than 4g added sugar per serving on a label. Buy unsweetened versions of foods and add your own sweetener. The teaspoon of honey you add to your plain yogurt is always going to be better than the 3 tablespoons of sugar added to the pre-sweetened variety.
- Low glycemic sweeteners to ENJOY: raw honey, coconut sugar, date syrup
- No glycemic sweeteners to ENJOY: allulose, monkfruit, stevia
- Amp up your fiber intake. Fiber is the unsung hero of heart health. Fiber binds extra fats and sugars to prevent absorption into the bloodstream. Fiber keeps our gallbladder and liver happy so they keep detoxing efficiently. Fiber keeps us full so we don’t overeat our calories! The sad truth though, is that only a fraction of Americans eat the minimum 25g of daily fiber. Aim for 5 cups of veggies every day, 1-3 cups of fruit and 2-3 Tablespoons of seeds like chia, flax, hemp and pumpkin to reach your fiber needs.
- Truly enjoy your food. Take small bites, eat slowly, breathe through your meals, notice the flavors and textures of what you are eating. When we stress-eat, we pump up our blood pressure and put our bodies into fight or flight mode, which stresses the heart and does not allow for adequate digestion of the food you just ate. So start being mindful, start being present and stop eating out of the bag while scrolling on your phone. Your heart will thank you.
Here are some of our favorite heart-healthy recipes: