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Beyond Trim

Eat Smart for Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great time to re-evaluate your diet with an emphasis on adding heart healthy foods to your meals, especially if they can replace foods that are typically not good choices.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium be limited:

  • Too much fat in the diet, especially the saturated fats found in fried foods, meats, and full fat dairy products results in more calories consumed (fat weighs in at 9 calories per gram as compared to protein and carbohydrate at 4 calories per gram). Saturated fats have also been shown to increase cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease.
  • Foods with added sugar (not those with naturally occurring sugar like fruit) but things like sugary beverages, candy, desserts, and sweet snacks contain no nutrients; just a lot of empty calories that can lead to extra pounds and increase your risk for obesity and heart disease.
  • And too much sodium in your diet causes your body to pull water into the bloodstream, raising your blood pressure and damaging your arteries over time.

According to the AHA, a heart-healthy diet should consist of more of the following:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • beans and legumes
  • nuts and seeds
  • fish (oily fish like salmon, trout, herring, sardines, etc.)
  • other lean proteins like skinless poultry and low or non-fat dairy

If you are not eating many of these foods every day, it might be time to make some changes.

If you’ve ever gone on a “diet”, you can understand the AHA recommendation that dietary changes be implemented slowly. Making incremental changes to your daily meals results in a gradual shift that can be more likely to stick with you...and it is important to think of these changes as a permanent part of your lifestyle. After all, if your way of eating has resulted in extra weight or poor cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure numbers, those conditions will only return if you return to your old ways.

The AHA provides several resources that can assist you in making dietary changes including a heart healthy grocery shopping guide, recipes, and tips for meal planning, shopping on a budget, etc. Check out to learn more.