By Ali Williams, Keene State College Dietetic Intern
The heart is arguably one of the most important muscles in our body. Just like an engine makes a car go, the heart keeps our bodies running. Protecting the heart against disease is vital for leading a healthy active life.
As we age, our arteries can harden and become stiff, leading to arteriosclerosis. Fat deposits and plaque from our diet can also build up on the arteries walls causing atherosclerosis. Luckily there are several things we can do to ensure the health of our heart:
Tip 1: Stay Active
To keep your heart healthy, increase your physical activity. Physical activity helps lower blood pressure, maintain or lose weight, and decrease a buildup of plaque on the artery walls. To get the full benefit of exercise, it is recommended by the CDC to exercise for at least 2.5 hours a week. Exercising longer will lead to more health benefits. If you are busy and find it hard to fit physical activity into your schedule, remember you can exercise for as little as 10 minutes at a time and still gain health benefits for your heart.
Tip 2: Eat Nutritional Foods
Keep nutrition in mind. What foods are you eating and are they promoting heart health? Eating a variety of foods ensures you are getting a mix of vitamins, minerals, protein, whole grains and other nutrients that your body needs. It is best to eat foods low in calories, but high in nutritional value. Nutrient-rich foods support heart health because they reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and consuming whole grains and lean meats, lowers your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.
Tip 3: Limit Intake of Unhealthy Fats and Sodium
Saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium are found in packaged foods and red meat. It is best to limit your intake of these foods because saturated and trans-fats increase the amount of cholesterol in your veins and lead to plaque build-up in your arteries. Over time, as plaque builds up on the artery walls, blood cannot flow freely and blood clots can form. These blood clots can result in a heart attack or stroke.
Tip 4: Check Food Labels
Eating packaged foods is inevitable. However, you can still be mindful when shopping by looking at food labels. Check for how much saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium is in a product. To support heart health, the American Heart Association recommends that you should have no more than 11-13 grams of saturated fat per day and as little trans fat as possible. They also recommend no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. When comparing food labels, choose the option with lower saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium to increase your heart health! And remember to enjoy lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Treat yourself to this heart healthy vegetarian winter chili.
Spicy Vegetarian Winter Chili from the Mayo Clinic
Yield: 8 (1 ½ cups)
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 Fresno peppers, diced
- 2 quarts crushed tomatoes (no salt added)
- 2 cups cooked pinto beans (no salt added; if canned, rinse under water)
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon chipotle pepper
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- In a stockpot over low heat, cook onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in 2 tablespoons of water until onions become translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. If chili becomes too thick, thin with a little water.
Nutritional analysis per serving
Serving size: 1 1/2 cups
- Total carbohydrate 34 g
- Dietary fiber 9 g
- Sodium 79 mg
- Saturated fat trace
- Total fat 1 g
- Trans fat 0 g
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Protein 7 g
- Monounsaturated fat 1 g
- Calories 178
- Added sugars 0 g