February - DASH to a Healthy Heart!
- High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common risk factors for heart disease. The DASH dietary plan was developed to reduce blood pressure and encourage consumption of heart-healthy foods!
As the month of love, February is a great time to spend with friends, family, and those who mean the most to us. If you haven’t yet, add yourself to that list! Practicing self-love and taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as expressing love and gratitude to those around us. February is also American Heart Month, a time to reflect on lifestyle habits and focus on cardiovascular health. Keep reading for some nutrition tips to make steps towards improving heart health.
Consider following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) nutrition plan:
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common risk factors for heart disease. The DASH dietary plan was developed to reduce blood pressure, and encourages consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, fat-free dairy, fish, and poultry. Emphasizing these foods in your diet can also increase your potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber intake. When possible choosing foods that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar can be helpful, as well. You can find more specifics and DASH-friendly recipes on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.
Tips for making the switch
Remember change can happen gradually, it does not need to be an all-or-nothing process. If you’re having trouble, try to start with one or two of these easier dietary adjustments:
- Switch one or two of your daily processed snacks to heart-healthy options such as fruit, raw or steamed vegetables, nuts or seeds, fat-free yogurt, or unsalted popcorn (try adding pepper or other salt-free seasoning for more flavor).
- Add a serving of vegetables to your lunch or dinner.
- Consider having fruit or dark chocolate for dessert.
- Try out “Meatless Mondays” (or use any other day of the week!) to get used to more plant-based proteins. For the rest of the week, emphasize lean meats and fish.
Tips for reducing sodium
- Choose low-sodium or no-salt-added versions of foods.
- Eat fresh foods, when you can, rather than processed, canned, or frozen meals, which often have added sodium. If you do eat canned foods, you can also rinse the food before consumption to remove some of the excess salt.
- Switch up your seasonings! Make use of salt-free seasoning blends to get all the flavor and none of the sodium.
Overall, research indicates that around 2300 mg, or one teaspoon, per day contributes to health. If you have trouble, remember that any amount of reduction in dietary sodium can have positive effects on blood pressure, so look for easy-to-make substitutions.
Eat potassium-rich foods
Did you know that potassium can offset some of the harmful effects of excess sodium? Increasing your potassium intake can therefore be beneficial in reducing hypertension, and is best accomplished through the addition of potassium-rich whole foods. Some of these foods include bananas, oranges, cherries, avocados, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, and salmon. Take advantage of cravings for these!
Seasonal Foods and Recipes
Egg White Frittata
This simple breakfast can be prepared with only five ingredients. Using egg whites instead of whole eggs contributes to the fat profile of the frittata. It also contains tomatoes and spinach, which are both good sources of potassium. Feel free to add additional vegetables to add more flavor and help clean out your fridge!
Vegan Farro Risotto
This creamy vegan risotto is full of whole grains and contains less saturated fat than the dairy-based version. Olive oil gives this recipe a dose of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and the kale provides a serving of vegetables. Yum!
Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa
Salmon is an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to contribute to health and decrease the risk of developing coronary heart disease. The avocado in this recipe also supplies heart-healthy fats and potassium.
Dark Chocolate Strawberries
The cocoa in dark chocolate has been found to have cardiovascular benefits (like reducing blood pressure!). This recipe also contains heart-healthy avocado oil. Healthy dessert anyone?
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “DASH Eating Plan.” Nih.gov, 29 Dec. 2021, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/education/dash-eating-plan. Accessed 19 Jan. 2023.
- “5 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure – Penn Medicine.” Www.pennmedicine.org, University of Pennsylvania, Mar. 2022, www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/january/lower-blood-pressure-naturally. Accessed 19 Jan. 2023.
- Chaddha, Ashish, and Kim A. Eagle. "Omega-3 fatty acids and heart health." Circulation 132.22 (2015): e350-e352.
- Kerimi, Asimina, and Gary Williamson. "The cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate." Vascular pharmacology 71 (2015): 11-15.