It’s hard to think of February without thinking of hearts–heart-shaped cards, heart-shaped candies, Valentine’s Day, etc. But don’t forget that February is also American Heart Month when we raise awareness of cardiovascular disease and encourage people to fight back against it by making healthy choices. In th spirit of celebrating both Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to take this month as an opportunity to focus on ensuring my family and I are eating a heart healthy diet.
Lucky for me, heart healthy means eating lots of fruits and veggies! Actually, I researched a past Insider’s Viewpoint article and a heart healthy diet includes lean proteins, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables. In our house we try to eat mainly chicken or turkey breast, fish or lean pork for our protein. I keep the dairy to the low-fat variety for the most part (although the kids do have their ice cream treats) and I will incorporate whole grains whenever I can (whole wheat bread or brown rice).
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, all are beneficial, but I found it interesting that some are particularly good for your heart. It might have something to do with the amount of fiber and/or antioxidant vitamins they contain. If you’re looking for a serious power boost, focus on green leafy vegetables like spinach, romaine lettuce or mustard greens, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage and citrus fruits like oranges, lemons or grapefruit.
It’s good to know that fruits and veggies in various forms count toward a heart healthy diet as well, just be sure to look for low-sodium variety canned veggies, canned fruit packed in 100% juice and drink juice that is 100% juice with no added sugars.
So, instead of a box of chocolates this February, think about other ways to show your Valentines how much you care. Maybe a delicious and healthy meal you’ve prepared especially for them. Or how about a sweet fruit salad? You can even cut the melon slices into heart shapes if you choose–I’ll take that over candy any day!