Every single day your heart works hard for you. In fact, the average human heart beats roughly 2.5 billion times throughout a person’s life! This February is American Heart Month. Why not celebrate by doing something nice for your heart? Here’s how..

1. Go red for heart health! Red fruits and vegetables, like cherries, red grapefruit, red grapes, raspberries, strawberries, beets, red bell peppers, and tomatoes, contain essential nutrients and antioxidants, such as lycopene, that help promote heart health.

2. Choose whole grains and beans. Whole grains and beans provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some great options include whole-wheat bread, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, bran, oats, chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans, and even new and unique grains like teff, freekeh, and amaranth.

3. Limit your sodium intake. Too much sodium can elevate blood pressure, which can stress the heart by making it work harder. Experts recommend consuming less than 2,400mg per day for healthy individuals and 1,500mg per day for anyone who has been diagnosed with or is at risk for high blood pressure. You can reduce your sodium intake by reading labels and choosing no-salt-added or low-sodium versions of your favorite products. Also try seasoning meals with salt-free herbs and spices instead of salt.

4. Replace “unhealthy” fats (saturated and trans fats) with “healthy” fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). Saturated fats (found in foods like butter, red meat, and whole milk) and trans fats (found in many pastries and donuts and some fried foods) raise blood cholesterol levels, which can build up and block arteries over time. Monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil and avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (found in salmon and walnuts) work the opposite way, helping to lower blood cholesterol levels when they are eaten in place of “unhealthy” fats.

5. What about foods that contain dietary cholesterol?

New studies are showing that cholesterol that is found naturally in foods like meat, poultry, dairy, and egg yolks (foods made from an animal product) does not have much effect on raising blood cholesterol levels. However, it’s important to realize that many foods that are high in dietary cholesterol also tend to be high in saturated fat, which does raise blood cholesterol levels. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 300mg per day of cholesterol from foods for healthy individuals or 200mg per day for anyone who already has high cholesterol.

And don’t forget, being “heart smart” isn’t just about the foods we eat. There are other ways to be kind to your heart. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, and de-stressing can all be extremely beneficial to your heart. So, which heart healthy habit will you try this February?

by: Rhianna Cenci, RD, LDN ۰ Retail Dietitian, Kinsley’s ShopRite of Brodheadsville




About Rhianna

Rhianna Cenci, RD, LDN, Retail Dietitian at Kinsley’s ShopRite in Brodheadsville
You can find Rhianna doing free individualized nutrition counseling in the store and free community presentations for organizations like Boy/Girl Scouts, senior groups, Chamber of Commerce, local gyms, etc. She also offers kids’ cooking classes, recipe and new item demonstrations/tastings in the store, store tours, and Culinary Workshops (alongside a Chef). She is available to answer customer questions, just stop by her office in the store, set up an appointment, or call/email her.