February is American Heart Month and Project Angel Food’s head of Nutrition Services and Therapeutics, Alyssa Baldino, MPH, RD, is serving up seven tips for all of us to improve our heart health. Yes, we use her knowledge and expertise to improve the health outcomes of our clients who are living with heart disease, but today the focus is providing these simple guidelines to you.
First, what is American Heart Month? It’s the one month of the year that is a federally designated event with the first proclamation issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Now in its 59th year, the month highlights heart disease and other related issues. We are shining the light on preventive actions we can all take that will have our hearts pumping with gratitude for all we’re doing to keep them healthy.
7 Tips for Heart Health in 2023
Tip 1: Eat fruits and vegetables. Studies consistently show that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables — a key source of fiber that benefits the heart. Healthy foods for the heart include beans, leafy greens and apples. We make sure our meals all have plenty of these healthy items, plus, each client gets two pieces of fruit each day — apples, pears, oranges, etc.
Tip 2: Bake instead of fry. At Project Angel Food, meals are never deep fried and instead are oven baked.
Tip 3: Get moving. Experts recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. It can be any activity if it gets your heart pumping and it’s something you enjoy. It doesn't always have to be a treadmill or jogging. We’ve even noticed some of our volunteers dancing in the kitchen.
Tip 4: Limit processed foods. While quick to eat, they are often a hidden source of sodium. You don’t have to be a registered dietitian like Alyssa to read labels and choose items with less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. In addition, take note of the daily allowance for sodium. Just one-quarter teaspoon of table salt has 600 milligrams of sodium — more than a quarter of the recommended daily allowance, which is less than 2,000 milligrams and 1,500 for those with heart disease.
Tip 5: Balance lean meats with plenty of vegetables and whole grains. Project Angel Food’s Medically Tailored Meals are primarily chicken, turkey, fish and lean cuts of beef and pork, and are always paired with vegetables and most of the meals contain whole grains.
Tip 6: Embrace healthy fats. We all know that foods high in saturated fats are not good for us. Replace biscuits, bacon and sausage for foods providing healthier sources of fat such as avocados, fish, nuts, seeds, and olives. For healthier meals, cook with vegetable-based oils, like olive and canola oil, instead of butter or lard.
Tip 7: Meatless Mondays and Saltless Saturdays. Replacing a meal by doing something like Meatless Mondays has been shown to improve heart health by staving off heart disease and decreasing the chance of developing diabetes. You can opt for a plant-based protein like beans or tofu to decrease saturated fat consumption and increase fiber intake while improving your heart health. Saltless Saturdays are another great option where a meal is flavored with herbs or salt substitutes instead of salt. In our kitchen, we use Mrs. Dash.
Challenge yourself this month and see how many tips, from this article or somewhere else, you can follow to help your heart this American Heart Month.