February is dedicated to love, but also to our trusty blood pumpers, our heart! The American Heart Association has named February as the American Heart Month in honor of promoting awareness of heart disease. To help prevent heart disease we should eat a balanced diet rich in whole foods. Certain whole foods contain fats crucial to protecting our most important organ from disease. Fats often get a bad rep, but are actually an essential nutrient necessary for overall health. Different types of fats have different effects on the body, and some even offer health benefits. Read on to learn about the two types of fats to add to your plate to help nutritiously fuel your ticker!
Omega 3 Fats – Omega 3 Fatty Acid, is a type of fat that may help to lower LDL, ‘bad’, cholesterol levels within the body as well as support a healthy heart. The following foods are adequate sources of Omega 3’s to support your heart health:
- Fatty Fish: This includes fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. The current dietary guidelines state to include fish on your plate at least 2 times each week.
- Walnuts: Great tossed on a salad, thrown in a trail mix, or eaten on their own.
- Flaxseeds: Ground flaxseed is the easiest way to sprinkle in extra nutrients into your diet. Great on yogurt, toast and almond butter, or stirred into a smoothie.
Monounsaturated Fats – Monounsaturated fats help to improve HDL, ‘good’, cholesterol levels, and may help to lower the risk for heart disease. Fill up on the following foods to help your heart and body.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews are a few of the broad range of nuts to incorporate into the diet. Current dietary guidelines suggest adding nuts to your diet 3-4 times per week. Stick to a serving, ¼ cup, as calories are high and will quickly add up.
- Oils: Any type of vegetable oil will provide more nutrients than saturated fat such as butter. Great drizzled on salads, used for roasting vegetables, or dipping whole grain bread. Moderation is key, just like nuts, the calories quickly add up.
- Avocados: Smeared on whole grain toast, mixed into a salsa, or sliced for a great sandwich topping. Avocadoes are a great fatty addition to your plate. Plus this fruit also contains folate, Vitamin E, B6, potassium, and fiber!
Whole food nutrition provides nutrients not just for your heart, but for your whole body. Try balancing the intake of both Omega 3’s and Monounsaturated fats throughout the week for optimal health benefits. Here’s to a healthy heart today and every day!