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Menu Planning? Try These 5 Heart-smart Substitutions

By Erin Wickersham, RD,  Registered Dietitian

When it comes to heart health food can literally be medicine. The foods we eat play a big role in keeping our hearts healthy. Here are five ways you can start improving your heart health right in your own kitchen:

  1. Opt for seafood instead of red meat. Red meat is often high in saturated fat, which raises LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. On the other hand, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, such as salmon, can help reduce the risk for heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke. Aim for about 8 ounces of nonfried seafood per week, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

  2. Season food with herbs and spices, rather than salt. Eating too much sodium ups the chances of developing high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. People with elevated or high blood pressure should eat only 1,500 milligrams (mg) or less of sodium a day. Other adults should aim for less than 2,300 mg. This is the amount contained in about 1 teaspoon of table salt. 

  3. Limit processed foods, which are high in sodium and sometimes contain trans fats. Instead, include fresh poultry, seafood, and vegetables. And enjoy potassium-rich foods, such as spinach, bananas, kidney beans, potatoes, and lentils. While sodium can raise blood pressure, potassium helps lower it. 

  4. Cook with oil that is liquid at room temperature instead of butter or shortening, which are solid at room temperature and high in saturated fat. Try olive oil, avocado oil or sunflower oil, which contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Research shows that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats is associated with reduced LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of having, and dying of, heart attacks.

  5. Snack on about a ¼ cup of unsalted walnuts, almonds, and other nuts to get your fill of healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. They can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Put down ultra-processed foods (chips, cookies, etc.) that contain high amounts of unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium. Eating these foods has been linked to a higher risk for obesity, hypertension and other health problems. 

Looking for a new dish to perk up your mealtime? Click here to find delicious items you can easily make at home, from grilled chicken with strawberry and pineapple salsa to salmon with cilantro pesto.

Updated September 1, 2020

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