#happylife: Tips for maintaining a heart healthy diet

February is American Heart Month. A month dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and the ways to best prevent it.

One of the best ways to do so is to keep a heart healthy diet. That includes eating foods off the color wheel, bright in color. Think eggplant and plums for purple and tomatoes and cherries for red. No, processed foods that are orange or green are not included.

Fruits and vegetables have more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They have less calories and more fiber giving those who eat them way more nutrition and can keep our hearts beating longer! If your diet has higher fat levels, you are at greater risk of heart disease.

“When we shift from eating refined carbohydrates and higher specially hydrogenated fat foods to fruits and vegetables, we can actually change our cholesterol levels,” added Lisa Randall, dietitian with Inland Northwest Health Services who works with the American Heart Association.

Randall says beware of portion distortion. A lot of restaurants give more generous portions and larger size dinner plates make think we need to pile more on our plate than needed.

“We think about the palm of our hand. That’s about the serving of a meat. About 3-4 ounces,” she explained.

The American Heart Association recommends the following daily portion sizes as a rule of thumb:

Vegetables- canned, dried, fresh & frozen – 2.5 cups
Fruits – canned, dried, fresh & frozen – 2 cups
Whole Grains – barley, brown rice, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole wheat bread, crackers & pasta – ¾ cup
Dairy – low fat (1%) and fat free – 3 cups
Proteins – eggs, non-fried fish, lean meat, legumes, nuts, skinless poultry & seeds – between ½ and ¾ cup
Oils – canola, olive, peanut – 3 tablespoons

They urge you to limit your intake of sugary drinks and sweets, fatty meats and highly processed or salty foods. Avoid altogether, if possible, excessive calories and replace those salty or highly processed foods with homemade options.

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