Keeping a “Sweet” Heart!

By Debbie Jeffery, RD

February is National Heart Month and the time of year to think about the health of your heart.  Your heart is a powerful muscle whose primary function is to pump blood to all parts of the body, delivering nutrients and oxygen to your organs and tissues.  In an average day your heart will beat more than 100,000 times, pumping more than 4,300 gallons of blood throughout your entire body.  Many think of heart disease as a man’s issue but heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States followed by lung cancer and then breast cancer. Heart failure may occur suddenly or develop gradually over years.  But one thing is certain, regular exercise and good nutrition habits play a major role in preventing heart disease. Healthy foods to keep our hearts strong and include:

Fruits and Vegetables: Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures that you are taking in a wide range of nutrients to protect against heart disease.  These foods are high in vitamin C, beta carotene, and phytochemicals, all of which are essential antioxidants in the prevention of heart disease.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids:  Omega 3’s have been found to help decrease triglyceride levels, the rate of atherosclerotic plaque and arrhythmias.  Fish high in Omega 3 include salmon, sardines, herring, trout, mackerel, halibut and tuna.  Other sources of Omega 3 rich foods are flaxseed oil, walnuts, enriched eggs and edamame.

Soluble Fiber:  Soluble fiber helps to decrease cholesterol levels, therefore working to decrease the risk for heart disease.  Some foods high in soluble fiber are oats, oat bran, flax, lentils, apples and pears.

Nuts:  Nuts are high in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium and essential fatty acids.  Eaten in moderation, nuts can help decrease the risk for heart disease.  Some examples of heart healthy nuts are almonds, walnuts and pistachios.

Love your heart and keep it strong by eating a healthy diet and participating in regular physical activity.