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10 Dietitian Tips to Protect Your Heart with Your Fork

Sharon Palmer

Just in time for Heart Month, I’m bringing you top dietitian’s best advice for how to protect your heart with your fork. After all, heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. And diet is one of the most powerful tools you have to help keep your heart going strong. What you eat can reduce your “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and keep your blood pressure and blood glucose under control. Your best bet is to eat a primarily plant-based diet. Read on for these great tips from nutrition experts for how to protect your heart with your fork.

10 Dietitian Tips to Protect Your Heart with Your Fork

Smoky Chili with Sweet Potatoes

1. Load up on beans. “Include 1/2 cup of beans or lentils in your diet at least 3 times per week for soluble fiber and plant-based protein,” says Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, RDN from Sound Bites Nutrition.

2. Get creative with olive oil. “Use extra virgin olive oil rich in monounsaturated fats and polyphenols an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory benefits. Drizzle on vegetables before roasting, and salads. You could use it as a base for marinades with your favorite vinegar and seasonings,” says Janet Brancato, MS, RDN of My Nutopia.

Mediterranean Edamame Quinoa Bowl

3. Eat more family meals. “Encourage family meals that include fresh fruit and vegetables. Research shows that children who eat family meals eat more fruits and vegetables and have lower rates of obesity,” says Amy Reed, RDN of Amy Reed Nutrition.

Rustic Avocado Garlic Toast

4. Search out the fats. “Include good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold water fish, walnuts, avocado, and olive oil,” says Stacy Lewis, MS, RDN, LD of The Fruitful Dietitian.

5. Snack smart. “Replace salty crunchy chips and crackers at snack time with a mixture of nuts and seeds that includes walnuts,” says Wendy Wesley, RDN of Boil Water Cooking.

Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

6. Ramp up the fiber intake. “Really work to meet your fiber goal, which is 25 grams daily for women and 38 g men under 50 years. This includes not just hitting the target number of grams but to really work at seeking out a variety of fiber types. There are many more types of fiber than most people are aware, and I don’t mean just soluble and insoluble. Various fibers have various functions in the body, including tamping down high cholesterol and helping to reduce insulin resistance. Both of these problems are related to heart health. I recommend including fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack and whole grains or pulses in most meals to meet fiber goals, and lots of other nutrient/health goals too. For cholesterol and blood sugar benefits, I specifically like to see barley, cooked oats, uncooked oats, lentils, beans, chickpeas, and berries,” says Virginia-based Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, author of the soon-to-be-released Prediabetes: A Complete Guide.

Blood Orange Hazelnut Kale Salad

7. Make green leafy veggies your BFF. “Include dark leafy greens most days. Dark leafy greens are low in calories and provide antioxidants and fiber to help prevent heart disease. Plus they’re so easy to incorporate! Add baby spinach to eggs or smoothies in the morning, enjoy a salad for lunch, or stir baby greens into a soup or pasta sauce just before serving,” says Jessica Cox Ivey, registered dietitian and chef.

Berry Quinoa Power Bowl

8. Pair protein with fruit. “Challenge yourself to eat a piece of fruit every day at work as a snack. Set it on your desk and keep it in sight. Even if you aren’t craving it, you’ll eat it just because it’s there. And if you can pair it with a protein food—such as peanut butter, nuts, a hard-boiled egg, roasted chickpeas, a mozzarella cheese stick, hummus, or yogurt—it will make it easier not to be tempted by the typical less-healthy office snacks. Every snack you eat should include a high-protein food and a fruit or vegetable: an orange and nuts, cottage cheese mixed with vegetables, pears with almond butter, or apples with peanut butter, to name a few. Try this, and not only will you feel better, but you’ll concentrate better, too,” says Judith Scharman Draughon, author of Lean Body, Smart Life.

Savory Steel Cut Oats with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Tofu

9. Power up on produce. “Eat at least one serving of fruit or vegetable with every snack and meal. It’s a great habit to start,” says Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and chef.

10. Don’t let fat scare you. “There is a lot much misinformation, confusion, and fear about fats in general so I think it’s really important to understand about different types of fats, and to eat more healthy fats in everyday life, especially omega 3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids in the form of salmon, nuts, olive oil is really important for heart health,” says Dixya Bhattarai, MS,RD, LD of Food, Pleasure and Health.

Spicy Lentil Tacos

Check out the video for making this heart-healthy recipe for Spicy Lentil Tacos here.

For other heart healthy recipes, check out some of my favorites:

Turmeric Rice and Black Bean Bowl
Butternut Squash Kale Barley Salad
Mediterranean Edamame Quinoa Bowl

Main image: Heirloom Bean Cassoulet with Root Vegetables, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

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