February is Heart Health month and there is no better time to start taking care of your heart. Even if your cholesterol levels are in normal range you want to keep it that way; heart disease and high cholesterol levels progress with time. Try these three simple ways to keep your heart healthy.
1. Cut the Saturated Fat – The most effective change in your diet when lowering your cholesterol level or preventing plaque buildup in your arteries is to eat less saturated fat. Where does saturated fat lurk? Three common food sources are chicken skin, red meat and whole milk dairy products. Skinless chicken breasts or thighs are ideal and use these when cooking at home; when eating out make sure to remove the skin before eating. Red meats are generally high in fat and should be chosen carefully. Look for extra lean ground beef and red meat cuts from the loin or round sections.
2. Meatless Mondays is a new food trend that is worthwhile. On your meatless night don’t switch meat for cheese; instead choose beans or soy for meatless protein sources. Beans are very versatile. Sauté garlic, diced tomatoes, rosemary and olive oil and then add canned, rinsed white beans and simmer for an Italian flavor. For a spicier option try black beans simmered with salsa, cilantro and jalapenos. Serve a large crisp salad with a variety of raw vegetables, crusty whole wheat bread or brown rice for a hearty meal, and you will not miss the meat. There are soy products in the freezer section of your grocery store that mimic meat; soy patties or soy crumbles look like hamburger patties or ground beef. The soy crumbles are easy to sneak into a chili or spaghetti. I have made chili with soy crumbles and beans. Everyone went back for seconds, and only then did I mention I used soy instead of ground beef.
3. Eat foods that help you lower cholesterol levels such as beans and peas, oatmeal and barley; they are good source of soluble-fiber. Examples of beans and peas with this cholesterol lowering fiber are white beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, split peas and lentils. A hot bowl of soup with barley, split peas or beans on a cold winter day is prefect for lunch or dinner. Try barley as an alternative to rice. Enhance barley’s flavor with a generous amount of chopped fresh herb such as parsley or mint. Along with oatmeal you can find a multigrain hot cereal that has both barley and oatmeal at the grocery store. Add vanilla or cinnamon and a sprinkle of dried fruit and nuts for an easy start to your morning. Look for ways to add these cholesterol-lowering foods to your meals.
In February let’s celebrate our heart and make some positive changes in our diet to help keep our cholesterol levels normal and reduce the plaque build up in our arteries.
Is there any heart healthy change you are ready to make?