Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women, higher even than all types of cancer combined. The American Heart Association (AHA) launched National Wear Red Day in 2003 to bring attention to cardiovascular disease, which claims the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year.
In addition to wearing red on Feb. 1, incorporate these five heart-healthy food tips to reduce your risk of heart disease:
1. Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day; 9 servings is even better. One serving is one piece of fresh fruit, 1 2 cup of cut-up fruit, 1 2 cup of cooked or raw solid vegetables like cucumbers or tomatoes, or 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables like spinach or lettuce. There's no one 'best' fruit or vegetable and you'll get more benefit by eating as many different varieties as you can.
2. Choose whole grains whenever possible. Opt for whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain cereal or try a different type of grain such as quinoa. Whole grains contain more fiber and nutrients than processed grains.
3. Use healthy types of fat such as canola or olive oil or avocado that don't raise your blood levels of cholesterol. I like to add slices of avocado to a sandwich instead of using mayonnaise or butter.
4. Eat more fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, especially salmon, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna. The AHA recommends two servings of fish per week to decrease triglyceride levels and protect your blood vessels from plaque.
5. Replace animal protein with vegetable protein one or two days per week to increase your fiber intake and reduce saturated fat. Try black bean or lentil soup or add tofu to a vegetable stir-fry.
Wear red on Feb. 1and incorporate these five healthy food tips into every week in February through the end of the year to reduce your risk of heart disease and teach your family healthy eating habits.
Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com. A current favorite is a pilaf made with whole grain barley, lentils, and arugula. It's good for my heart and tastes great!