“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Alejandra Menjivar, Second Harvest Food Bank Community Nutrition Educator

Healthy Tips for Good Heart Health

February is the month to celebrate love and friendship. Many of us show our love and appreciation to our family and significant others on Valentine’s Day by going out to dinner, gifting chocolates and flowers, or saying I love you. February is also Heart Month.  As we celebrate these heartfelt emotions,  I would like to share the following tips to keep your heart healthy.

According to the American Heart Association, at the heart of good health is always good nutrition. Healthy food choices will help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Eat less of the low-nutrient and empty calorie foods and limit saturated fats which are usually derived from animal products like red meat. Instead, choose lean meats such as turkey or chicken breast. Also limit your intake of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages; your body does not need sugar to function properly. In fact, there’s no recommended daily percent value for sugar. When we consume sugar, we’re adding empty calories and extra pounds that could lead to obesity and reduced heart health.

Include the following in your diet to make your heart stronger:

  • Fruits and vegetables: They are fresh, filling, and heart healthy. Fruits and vegetables have vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Make sure that you fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. If you make it a rule to eat your fruits and vegetables first on your plate, you will get full quicker because of the fiber and you will eat less of the protein and grains on your plate (which is why only 1/2 of your plate is dedicated to protein and grains according to MyPlate Dietary Guidelines).
  • More whole grains and less refined grains: There is a difference between whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain layers that carry vitamins and fiber which helps keep us regular, ensures healthy blood flow, and makes us feel full. Refined grains are what you get when you take away the layers that make up a whole grain and you are only left with the starch layer which really doesn’t have much nutritional value. MyPlate Dietary Guidelines recommend that only half of your grains be whole grain. I like to follow the dietary guidelines and one way I do this is when I make a sandwich, I use a slice of whole grain for my top and a slice of white bread as my bottom – this way I can still enjoy both types of grains.
  • I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day and good heart health. I hope this guide helps you make healthy choices. Please share these tips with your family, friends, and loved ones.

    Do you have any ideas on how to maintain a healthy heart? Have you tried any of our suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below!

    Check out the American Heart Association website for more resources.

    ***Check out our past Nutrition Newbie posts.