February is American Heart Month, and the goal for this month is to raise awareness about heart disease and how to prevent it. You can help prevent heart disease by making key lifestyle choices and sustaining them throughout your life. In this guide, we’ll look at heart-healthy diet tips to lower your risk for heart disease.
Bonus: we’ve got 3 simple plant-based recipes below to kickstart your renewed commitment to heart health.
Let’s begin by taking a closer look at heart disease.
Who is at risk for heart disease?
Heart disease is caused by a buildup of plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries. This can block the flow of blood, which carries oxygen, to your heart. You may not think you are at risk of heart disease, but it’s a common condition. In fact, 1 in 4 deaths in the United States every year are caused by heart disease.
Conditions and behaviors that are risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure: uncontrolled high blood pressure is well-known to be one of the biggest risks
- High cholesterol level: this is directly linked to diabetes, poor diet and bad habits like smoking and lack of exercise
- Smoking: this damages the blood vessels and can lead to heart disease
- Obesity: being overweight or obese puts extra stress on the heart
- Diabetes: high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels
- Lack of exercise: exercising keeps the heart and circulatory system healthy and can help to fight against the previously mentioned conditions and behaviors that put you at risk
- Unhealthy diet: if you don’t have healthy eating habits, your body will lack the ability to fight against factors that put you at risk for heart disease
You can reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes by:
- managing heart health conditions with your health care team,
- exercising at least 150 minutes a week
- avoiding smoking
- eating a heart-healthy diet
Plant-based diets ensure heart health
The general recommendations for a heart-healthy diet include:
- limiting your sodium intake (this includes fast food and other processed foods)
- limiting trans fats and bad cholesterol from your diet
- lowering your consumption of sugar
- increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
We should be eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. That means half of our plates at each meal should be foods from this food group. Sadly, only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables every day.
Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that rid our body of free radicals and other components that may be aggravating heart health issues. Filling your plate (and belly) with a variety of these nutritionally dense foods at each meal will help your heart health as well as your overall health.
Do it for your heart
To see the most benefits for your heart, make the switch to a plant-based diet. This diet can be cost-effective and help you to:
- achieve a healthy body-mass index (an indication of healthy weight)
- lower blood pressure
- lower cholesterol
The evidence in favor of plant-based diets is so overwhelming that some doctors are now recommending it to all of their patients, especially those who have one of the conditions mentioned above, or who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.
Quick plant-based recipes for heart health
If you are on the road to making better decisions for your heart health, we’re here to make it easier for you. Here are three easy, delicious, heart-healthy, plant-based recipes you can make in under 20 minutes.
#1: Vegan pasta
You can make this dish in under 20 minutes for a quick dinner or meal-prepped lunch.
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 tbsp. basil, chopped
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 4 servings pasta (about 8 oz.)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup vegan parmesan cheese
- Bring salted water to a boil.
- Add pasta and cook until al dente.
- Heat oil in skillet and add shallots, garlic, basil, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Add 1 ladle of pasta water and spinach until wilted.
- Add pasta to the skillet and another ladle of pasta water.
- Stir until mixed and add in vegan parmesan cheese at the end.
#2: Buddha Bowl
This nutrient-packed buddha bowl is delicious and requires minimum cooking. If you have the quinoa made already, you can throw it together in minutes.
Makes 4 servings
- ½ cup hummus
- 1 avocado
- Toasted sunflower seeds (unsalted)
- 1 cup baby spinach
- A lemon or lime, for juice
- 2 cups baby beets, sliced
- 1 cup shelled edamame
- ½ cup black beans
- 1 pouch microwaveable quinoa
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
- Mix hummus and lemon/lime juice in a bowl.
- Add water until it reaches the consistency of dressing.
- Divide up the quinoa into four bowls or takeaway containers.
- Do the same for the rest of the ingredients.
- Top quinoa with baby spinach, edamame, beets, avocado and black beans.
- Top with sunflower seeds and hummus dressing.
#3: Green Breakfast Smoothie
Green smoothies are a quick and easy way to get your fill of veggies and fruit in the morning.
- 1 cup spinach
- ½ cup kale
- ½ cucumber
- 1 green apple
- ¼ cup frozen pineapple
- Coconut water
- Blend all together and enjoy!
These plant-based recipes are just the beginning of heart-healthy diet tips to help you on your journey. There are sites, blogs and apps galore full of recipes to help you begin eating your way through the rainbow. You can start here, here and here.
Plant-based meals are:
- packed with essential vitamins and minerals
- low in sodium and saturated fat
- full of components like heart-healthy fats and antioxidants to help keep your heart and arteries in tip-top shape
Take your first step toward improved heart health today!
What heart-healthy diet tip are you most likely to try first?
Tell us about it in the comments!
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