It’s fitting that February—the month THAT we celebrate love and Valentine’s Day— is American Heart Month. So now is the perfect time to make heart-healthy eating a priority. Here’s a lineup of foods to choose—and those to lose. Your heart will love you for it.
Skip this: Butter on toast
You may have seen some headlines calling butter back to the table, but the American Heart Association (AHA) and other national and international organizations still strongly recommend limiting saturated fat to control cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. One tablespoon of butter contains 7 grams of saturated fat, about one-third of the recommended daily limit for a healthy individual.
Enjoy this: Peanut butter or
almond butter on toast
You’ll save 5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Plus nuts and nut butters are rich in unsaturated fats. Research shows that replacing some saturated fats with unsaturated fats lowers the risk of heart disease.
Skip this: White pasta
Pasta made of refined wheat flour has been stripped of some vitamins, minerals and other health-boosting compounds.
Enjoy this: Barley
Whole grain pasta has more to offer than white pasta, but barley has something extra special. It contains beta-glucan, a fiber that acts like a sponge, sopping up cholesterol from your digestive tract and preventing it from entering your bloodstream. Beta-glucan helps control blood glucose, too. Oats are another great source of this fiber.
Skip this: Broccoli cheese soup
This bowl is brimming with saturated fats and calories.
Enjoy this: Bean soup
Beans are nutrient powerhouses with ample fiber, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and other disease-fighters. Eating at least four servings of beans each week significantly lowers the risk of heart disease.
Skip this: Pretzels
Many believe this fat-free snack to be a heart-loving food, but the refined flour does the heart no good.
Enjoy this: Nuts
The unsaturated fats and other compounds in nuts are truly friends to the heart. Studies find that eating nuts helps to improve blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Since they all have different nutrient profiles, choose a variety of nuts just like you seek out a variety of fruits and vegetables. Unless you’re trying to pack on the pounds, stick to a daily limit of about ¼-cup.
Skip this: Cheese on
More saturated fats here, which raises cholestorol.
Enjoy this: Avocado on a sandwich
Add creaminess and heart-healthy unsaturated fats with a few slices of avocado.
Skip this: Lemonade
The AHA recommends limiting added sugars because they’re linked to obesity, which raises the risk for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and heart disease.
Enjoy this: Unsweetened tea
This is a great beverage choice because of what it lacks—added sugars— and because of what it contains—flavonoids, a class of phytochemical health boosters also found in fruits and vegetables. Drinking tea is associated with a lowered risk of heart attack, reduced blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels.