In case you didn’t know, February is American Heart Health month. Since heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women, what better time than the present to start being proactive about your heart health?
A great place to start is diet – the Mediterranean diet to be exact. Studies have linked this diet to both heart and brain health; one study in particular found adherence to the Mediterranean diet cut participants’ risk of heart disease nearly in half.
Other studies have found this diet to help promote brain health. More specifically, it’s been linked with improved memory and an overall slowing of brain aging.
These connections could be due to a few factors, like the diet being plant-based with limited amounts of red meat and saturated fats. It’s also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been tied to brain health.
Consult your doctor before taking on a new diet regimen, but in the meantime, there are a few simple Mediterranean choices you can start making today to help get started on a heart-healthy track.
Swap beef for fish Salmon is a great substitute for beef. It’s a meatier fish so it’s versatile for cooking. Swap out a beef burger for a salmon burger, or a steak for grilled salmon – you’ll save on cholesterol and sodium, and gain in omega 3 fatty acids. Load up on veggies while you’re at it too; the Mediterranean diet aims for about 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Olive oil instead of butter Butter is a staple in the American diet, but being full of saturated fats, it’s worth reconsidering how much we use it. The Mediterranean diet swaps butter for olive oil in cooking and as a companion for bread. Olive oil contains monosaturated fats, which have been tied to lower cholesterol levels and better brain health.
Trade white for whole or sprouted grains Generally speaking, white carbohydrates do more harm than good. Oftentimes, white carbs have been stripped of any nutrients and are essentially empty calories. On the other hand, grains maintain some nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Whole grains have also been linked to a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure. So, try opting for quinoa instead of white rice, wheat pasta instead of white pasta, and sprouted grain bread instead of white bread.
Rein in the salt Another American staple is salt. New research has shown that if you don’t have high blood pressure or kidney disease, your salt intake might be just fine the way it is. But studies have also shown that if you do have high blood pressure, lowering your sodium intake is an effective way to help lower your blood pressure.
Don’t fret about giving up flavor, though. Take a page from the Mediterranean book and use herbs and spices to add a flavor punch. You’ll be surprised how flavorful your food is even without adding salt.
It’s never too soon to start being proactive about your heart health. Get active, eat better, and talk to your doctor about your risk factors; you could stop heart disease in its tracks.
American College of Cardiology. (2015, March 4). Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease risk by nearly half. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 12, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150304190222.htm
American Geriatrics Society. (2017, July 25). Mediterranean-style diets linked to better brain function in older adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170725154208.htm
Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2015 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131:e29-322.
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