February is American Heart Month

American Heart Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. American Hearth Month was created to not only spread awareness of this, but also to help you know ways of preventing it! So, here are the top 8 ways of doing that:

1. Knowing Your Risk
It is important to know how at risk you are for developing heart disease based on not only family history, but also with lifestyle choices that can increase your risk. Risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, weight status, high cholesterol, inactivity, and even your age, if you are 55 or older for women, or 45 or older for men. Although some things can’t be changed such as your genetics, sex, or age, you can change your lifestyle habits to lower the overall risk.

2. Stay in Check
Don’t forget to have annual doctor appointments to have your blood pressure and blood cholesterol checked! High blood pressure (>140/90) and high cholesterol levels increase your risk by increasing plaque build-up on your arteries and possibly damaging your heart overtime.

3. Food for the Heart
Don’t forget to align your food with your goals! Choose a heart-healthy diet which includes fruits, vegetables, and grains and decrease your saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. If you are already experiencing high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is similar to what is listed above, just more specific on servings.

4. Healthy Weight
Keeping a healthy weight can help lower your risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight looks like for you! Keep in mind most people use their BMI to determine this, however for kids we look at their growth chart instead since they are still growing!

5. Stress Less
Stress can be a major trigger for high blood pressure, heart risk factors, and even a heart attack in some cases. Make sure you have a coping mechanism to deal with stress such as talking to someone, breathing exercises, mediation, or physical activity.

6. Get That Heart Beating!
As mentioned previously, physical activity is a great way to reduce stress. Not only that, it also can help improve your heart health by helping maintain or lower your weight, manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and lower your risk for other chronic conditions! Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about what exercises are right for you!

7. Smoking, Vaping, & Other Tobacco Products
Smoking is another well-known increased risk for heart disease as well as lung disease. This also includes vaping, e-cigarettes, and other forms of smoking. Set a date to quit, stay active and busy, avoid things that can trigger the need to smoke. Talk to your doctor about joining a program to help you quit smoking.

8. Give Your Heart a Rest
Don’t forget to get the appropriate amount of sleep. Adults are recommended to have 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and the needs increase as you look at younger teens and kids. Sleeping is the prime time for your body to fix anything that needs to be repaired, and it helps with your hunger hormones and immune system. Need help sleeping? Try getting physical activity during the day, maintain the schedule of when you go to bed and wake up, relax before bed, unplug from your phone or TV an hour before bed, and make sure not to eat a big meal or exercise an hour or so before bed.

Source: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-living

Let’s Find Out More About Fiber

Fiber

What is Fiber?

Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that can’t be digested or absorbed by the body. This is naturally found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans and legumes. There are two different types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.

Benefits

  • Heart disease: fiber may help prevent heart disease by reducing cholesterol
  • Weight Management: slows digestion keeping you fuller for longer. Foods high in fiber also are usually lower in calories!
  • Diabetes: slower digestion means it may also help reduce blood sugar spikes after meals
  • Digestive Issues: improve frequency and bulk of bowel movements

How much do we need?

The recommended amount of dietary fiber is about 25g for women and 38g for men daily for the general healthy population. More than 90% of women and 97% of men do not meet the recommended intakes for dietary fiber according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

How to increase it?

Fiber is found in higher amounts in whole grains and beans than fruits and vegetables. Other sources of fibers include oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, nuts, wheat bran, beans, peas, carrots, oranges, apples, and other vegetables.

  • Mix in oats where it’s possible whether it be meatloaf and bread or cookies and smoothies
  • Don’t forget the beans in your next soup or salad
  • When baking, substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour your recipe calls for
  • Choose whole fruits over fruit juices as more fiber is in the whole fruit and less chances of consuming added sugars
  • Always find new ways to make sure you reach the amount of fruits and vegetables you need in a day by adding them to sandwiches, salads or noodle and rice dishes.

Remember fiber consumed naturally is always a better route than supplements (unless otherwise instructed by your primary care physician or registered dietitian)

Cautions

Make sure as you dive into adding more fiber into your diet, you gradually add it in and drink plenty of water with it to prevent gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps.

Sources:

https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/fiber

https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf

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Facts about Fats

Fats

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to fats that we consume through our food market from mono- and polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to hydrogenated oils and trans fats. With so many fats available, it can get confusing knowing which ones to consume, have in moderation, and to avoid. So, we are here to set the fat facts straight.

  • Fats are essential
    Our body runs off of the energy that fat gives us, along with carbohydrates and protein. Our bodies need fat to fully function! Fats do a lot of good for you by not only giving you energy, but also by supporting cell growth, cushioning your organs, keeping you warm, and helping absorb other nutrients. Fats also make food taste good with extra flavor and texture.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown
    While no one food is good or bad, there are some that contain fats that we should limit or have in moderation.
    Healthy fats can be characterized as fats that help lower your total cholesterol and your LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also reduce risk of stroke and heart disease. This would include mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. These comes from plants and fish and are generally liquid at room temperature.
    Unhealthy fats can be characterized as raising cholesterol levels and increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke. They are usually animal based and solid at room temperature. These are known as saturated fats.
    Fats to avoid if possible, include hydrogenated oils and trans fats. These fats are changed structurally so they can be more solid and extend the shelf life of the processed foods.

So what should you do?

  • Check the Label
    Evaluate the percentages and try not to go over 100% of daily values. Check the fat values to stay low in saturated fats, and check the ingredient lists. If there is less than 0.5g of trans fat in the serving, they don’t have to list it! Check the ingredients list for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Cooking Smart
    Instead of cooking with solid fats such as butter, shortening, and margarine try using unsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil. Also try to trim fat when possible on meats.
  • Smart Switches
    Try to make smart switches everyday such as using avocados or nut butter on your toast instead of butter spread.
  • Cooking Methods
    Go for baked or steamed options instead of fried foods! Add your own sauce or seasonings to replace the lack of fat.
  • Don’t Forget the Fish!
    Try to include fatty fish in your diet at least once a week for a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are not only healthy fats, but also contain anti-inflammatory properties.

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Staying healthy during the holidays

Holiday_FoodsBlog

The holidays are here! That means more visits with family and friends and more delicious food to eat. But how can we stay on track with our normal diet with all of the delectable goodness? Here are some quick tips and trips to make sure you aren’t letting the holiday feasts get the best of you.

  1. Snacks and Apps
    Snacks and appetizers are an easy way to overeat and consume extra calories without realizing it. Instead of filling up on sweet snacks offered, you can offer to bring a vegetable tray to snack on, bring your own snacks to keep you on track, or just opt out of snacking between meals. You can also eat your dose of fruits and veggies before going out to that holiday party!
  1. Sweet Tooth
    Holidays always come with endless sweet options such as cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, hot chocolate, etc. Before indulging in every sweet dessert possible, consider just picking an appropriate serving of your favorite dessert and pairing it with fruit. Fruit is a great way to get in natural sugars that help satisfy your cravings.
  1. Meals Outside the Party
    If you know you are going to go to a big Thanksgiving dinner that night, make sure you eat right for your other meals! Make sure you get your fruits and vegetables beforehand and try to keep the portions small to compensate for the dinner if it is bigger than what you usually eat.
  1. Don’t Skip the Favorites
    It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Don’t skip over the favorite entrees that you love! Make sure the proportion is appropriate, but don’t cut it out altogether. Enjoy!
  1. Buffer the Buffett
    Don’t let the rows of food fool you! Have a plate of food and step away from the buffet. Lessen your appetite by having a snack of vegetables before starting the feast! Don’t forget to eat slowly to help your brain recognize when you are full.
  1. Keep Moving
    You might be tempted to sleep or rest after the parties are over, but it is important to get in your daily dose of activity! Go for a walk after your meal, play an active game in the yard with the family, or make sure to park at the back of the parking lot to get more activity while doing your holiday necessities! This will also help keep the stress off!
  1. Stress Less
    Stress can get the best of us during the holidays when our responsibilities pile up on us and lead to more stress eating. Don’t forget to take a breath and enjoy yourself. Make sure you have a plan to destress during the day whether it be spending valuable time with loved ones, breathing exercises, or exercising in general!
  1. Stay Safe
    Don’t forget the importance of food safety. Be aware of appropriate temperatures for foods to be cooked to, stored in, and held at for a specific time period. Don’t forget to wash your hands before, during, and after dealing with food preparation and when spending a lot of time with others.

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10 Tips to Be Active Adults

Be Active Adult

Being physically active is important for your health. Adults who are physically active are less likely to develop some chronic diseases than adults who are inactive. Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities can benefit from a physically active lifestyle.

  1. Start activities slowly and build up over time
    If you are just starting physical activity, build up slowly. This will help to prevent injury. After a few weeks, increase how often and how long you are active.
  1. Get your heart pumping
    For health benefits, do at least 2½ hours each week of physical activity that requires moderate effort. A few examples include brisk walking, biking, swimming, and skating. Spread activities over the week, but do them at least 10 minutes at a time.
  1. Strength-train for health muscles and bones
    Do strengthening activities twice a week. Activities that build strength include lifting weights, doing push-ups and sit-ups, working with resistance bands, or heavy gardening.
  1. Make active choices throughout the day
    Every little bit of activity can add up and doing something is better than nothing. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a 10-minute walk on your lunch break, or park further away from work and walk.
  1. Be active your way
    Mix it up—there are endless ways to be active. They include walking, biking, dancing, martial arts, gardening, and playing ball. Try out different activities to see what you like best and to add variety.
  1. Use the buddy system
    Activities with friends or family are more enjoyable than doing them alone. Join a walking group, attend fitness classes at a gym, or play with the kids outside. Build a support network—your buddies will encourage you to keep being active.
  1. Set goals and track your progress
    Plan your physical activity ahead of time and keep records. It’s a great way to meet your goals.
  1. Add on to your active time
    Once you get used to regular physical activity, try to increase your weekly active time. The more time you spend being physically active, the more health benefits you will receive.
  1. Increase your effort
    Add more intense activities once you have been moderately active for a while. You can do this by turning a brisk walk into a jog, swimming or biking faster, playing soccer, and participating in aerobic dance.
  1. Have fun!

Physical activity shouldn’t be a chore. It can help you feel better about yourself and the way you live your life. Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle.

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The tips featured in this blog post were developed by the USDA. For more information, visit myplate.gov.