Supporting your heart health this month
Show yourself some love during this romantic month! Following a healthy balanced diet supports overall health and reduces the risk of developing coronary heart diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
First aim to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat and replace it with unsaturated fat. Saturated fat is found in meat, poultry, full-fat milk, burgers, sausages, cakes, cream, ghee, lard and butter and foods of a similar nature. Unsaturated fat comes from plants such as avocado, rapeseed oil, nuts, seeds and plant-oil spreads. Look out for spreads, milks and yoghurts fortified with plant sterols and stanols as these reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the gut.
If you eat fish, have 2 portions a week and one of these should be oily fish. Look out for ‘Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and ‘Marine Stewardship Council’ (MSC) labels when choosing your fish variety. Check out the ‘good fish guide’ by MSC for further information on making sustainable seafood choices. Canned varieties of fishes count and can make a quick and easy lunch in a salad or on toast! If you don’t eat fish, focus on eating a variety of green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, and cabbage), walnuts, flaxseeds and seed oils and eat foods fortified with omega-3s.
Watch your salt intake. A high intake of salt contributes to higher blood pressure and increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. The daily recommended maximum amount of salt for an adult is 6g (roughly a teaspoon). Be careful of hidden salt found in soups, ready meals, bread, breakfast cereal and biscuits. Then watch your sugar intake by reducing sugary drink and food intake by checking the sugar content on labels and aim for no more than 30g a day.
Choose high fibre foods such as wholegrain varieties of pasta, rice, bread, breakfast cereals and noodles. Bulk out meals with pulses, and ensure you aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Good sources include oats, oat bran, baked beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas.
Lifestyle changes include giving up smoking which is one of the best things you can do to keep your heart happy. Take advantage of the weather when it’s sunny and dry to go for a brisk walk to support blood flow. Other forms of physical activity count too! Guidelines state that all adults should aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week which can be broken down into manageable chunks. Take regular breaks at your desk by doing some gentle stretches and movement. Stick to the guidelines for alcohol limits of no more than 14 per week spread over 3 or more days and have 2 alcohol free days a week.
These changes can be followed slowly with a gentle introduction of these changes to ensure a sustainable eating and exercise pattern over a long period of time that suits your needs!
Seasonal vegetables to enjoy this month
It may be cold outside but it’s a fantastic time to ensure you eat seasonal and tasty winter vegetables. Here’s a few examples taken from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) seasonal veg map.
- Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage (including brussel sprouts)
- Jerusalem artichokes and kohlrabi
- Celeriac and chicory
- Kale, leeks, pak choi, and chard
- Sweet potatoes and potatoes.
- Parsnips, Carrots and Swede
You can create a variety of delicious dishes from the produce on offer. Use beetroots in curries, soups, and salads. Enjoy broccoli and cauliflower roasted with herbs and spices. Make leeks into soups or pan fry with garlic and kale. Challenge yourself to try a new recipe this month.
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