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Foods that Help the Heart Beat Strong

Without a doubt, exercise has shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke. If you don’t have a regular routine in place, now’s the time to implement one.

Now let’s talk about what you’re putting into your mouth each day and some simple tips you can start trying to better support your ticker.

BREAKFAST

Are you eating it? We’ve all heard this is the most important meal of the day for weight management and general health but there may be some benefits to cardiovascular health as well. More research needs to be done on the connection, but it seems that breakfast eaters tend to make healthier choices as the day goes on compared to non-breakfast eaters.

If you’re skipping it, get curious as to why. Are you too rushed in the mornings or perhaps you’re eating too late at night? If you are eating breakfast, are you making the best choices day-to-day or grabbing whatever is available? Once you’ve identified where you can improve, create a plan to guarantee you have something healthy to grab as you walk out the door each day.

Healthy Fats

Fats play an important role in our overall health and support metabolism, the immune system, cell function, and hormone production.

The problem for most people is that the unhealthy fats are more convenient and tend to be the main source in diet. Artificial trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are processed or industrially produced therefore not a naturally occurring fat. This week, identify how often trans fats show up in your diet and challenge yourself to minimize your intake.

Once you’ve found and reduced the trans fats in your diet, the next task is to see if you can increase healthy fats into your day-to-day nutrition. These include monounsaturated fats (which may help reduce LDL and triglycerides while increasing HDL), and omega-3 fatty acids. It can be as simple as adding a serving of one of the fats below at each meal or snack.

Monounsaturated fats include: nuts, seeds, olives, and avocado

Omega-3 fatty acids include: cold water fatty fish, algae, flax, hemp, and chia seeds.

Fiber

Fiber intake has many healthy benefits but when it comes to the heart it’s linked to lower risks of heart disease and cardiovascular events. It can bind to cholesterol and help the body eliminate any extra hanging around.

Look at your meals and see where you can swap out refined flours for whole wheat or unprocessed grains like quinoa, brown rice, spelt, and Kamut. Try Meatless Mondays and experiment with different legume-based meals or add a serving of raw veggies to that afternoon snack when you really want the chocolate.

SO WHAT WOULD A HEART-HEALTHY DAY OF EATING LOOK LIKE?

Breakfast:

Overnight Oatmeal

½ cup Old Fashion Oatmeal (soluble fiber)
1-2 tbsps. Chia Seeds (healthy fat and fiber)
¼ cup Blueberries or Chopped Apple (polyphenols and fiber)
½ -1 cup Milk of Choice
Cinnamon – to taste
Honey – to taste
Optional: Sliced Almonds (healthy fat), Shredded Coconut

Place all the ingredients except almonds/coconut into a jar or Tupperware with a tight-fitting lid. Place into the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. When ready to eat, top with almonds or coconut and add more milk to taste.

Lunch:

Powered-Up Wrap

1 Whole Wheat or Sprouted Grain Tortilla (fiber)
1 cup Chopped Kale or Spinach (fiber)
4 oz. Chicken Breast, chopped
¼ Diced Avocado (healthy fat)
1-2 tbsp. Walnut Pesto (healthy fat)
Diced Cherry or Dried Tomatoes

Spread tortilla with pesto and top with remaining ingredients. Wrap like a burrito and enjoy!

Snacks:

1 cup Baby Carrots (soluble fiber), Bell Pepper, Cucumber with Hummus
or
Handful of raw Walnuts (healthy fat) with Dried Apricots (soluble fiber)

Dinner:

4 oz. Baked Salmon (healthy fat)
Roasted Garlic Asparagus (soluble fiber)
Baked Sweet Potato (soluble fiber)

Dessert

Dark Chocolate Chia Pudding
(serves 4)

½ cup Chia Seeds (healthy fat and fiber)
2 cup Milk of Choice (coconut milk works well)
¼ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2-4 tbsp. Maple Syrup
¼ tsp Salt
½ tsp Vanilla

Topping ideas: Sliced strawberries, shredded coconut, slivered almonds

Add all the ingredients to a bowl; slowly add maple syrup until desired sweetness. Whisk until everything is well distributed, cover, and place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. You can serve as is or if you would like it smooth place into the blender until creamy.

Suzanne Smith, RD, MS, CSSD

Sports Dietitian

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