How to Eat to Keep Your Heart Healthy

As American Heart Month comes to an end, it is important to remember that heart disease is the number-one killer for women. And for people with diabetes, the risk of heart disease is two to four times greater compared to that of another person without diabetes. In fact, diabetes is itself like a cardiovascular disease.

To celebrate American Heart Month, pick at least one item from the list below and make a healthy change for your heart.

Limit Saturated and Trans Fats

Saturated fats are found in fatty meat, bacon, sausage, whole milk, sour cream, and butter. Trans fats may still be found in stick margarine, fried foods, and some prepared foods made with hydrogenated oils. Both of these types of fat are listed on the nutrition facts panel under "Total Fat." Also included under "Total Fat" are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are healthier.

Limit Cholesterol Intake

Remember that cholesterol only comes from animal products. Cholesterol is found in egg yolks, meats, cheese, and whole milk. Cholesterol is also included on the nutrition facts label. Aim for less than 200 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per day.

Think Plant-Based Protein

Think about including soy, legumes, and whole grains like quinoa or barley in your diet as a replacement for meat. Using non-animal protein can help you reduce fat and cholesterol intake, with the added benefit that plant-based proteins are cheaper than animal proteins.

Limit Sodium

A high sodium intake can elevate your blood pressure. Aim for less than 2,000 mg per day--less than 1,500 mg per day if you already have high blood pressure. Sodium is also listed on the nutrition facts panel. Remember that fresh fruits and vegetables won't have any sodium.

Increase Fiber Intake

Fiber helps to carry "bad cholesterol" out of the body. Fiber also keeps you feeling full longer after meals and causes a smaller spike in glucose levels compared to other carbohydrates. Aim for 20 grams to 30 grams of fiber per day. Once again, check the nutrition facts panel under "total carbohydrates" for fiber content. Increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you attain this goal.

Eat More Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fats

Good sources of omega-3 fats include salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Try to eat fish 2 times each week. Canola and soybean oil are other sources of omega-3s, as are walnuts and flaxseed. Be careful, though, because the calories in these oils, nuts, and seeds can add up quickly.

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