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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

February is American Heart Month

The month of February has lots of people seeing red thanks to Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month. In my opinion, every month should be a heart healthy one! Keeping the ticker in tip top shape should be a priority for all of us but with all of the processed foods, literally at our fingertips 24/7, it’s easy to hop off of the healthy merry go round.

Maintaining a heart healthy diet is as easy as adding a bowl of oatmeal to breakfast, eating a hearty {pun intended!} bowl of bean-based soup (lentil is my fave) at lunch, and dining on salmon, brown rice or a sweet potato, and steamed broccoli drizzled with olive oil and lemon at dinner.

Clinical research has shown that a diet high in soluble fiber (like oats and beans/legumes) can help lower cholesterol as part of a diet low in saturated fat. Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, nuts, and seeds are also heart protectors, so include these in your diet two to three times a week. The American Heart Association also recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1500 milligrams a day, if you already have heart disease. That can be challenging, considering the average daily intake is 4000 milligrams a day. Sodium can affect blood pressure, kidney function, and increases one’s risk for a stroke or heart attack.

The Mediterranean diet has been front and center as one of the healthier and sound, evidence-based lifestyles to support healthy living. But please don’t group it into the “fad” diet mix! The diet has been around for centuries in Italy and Greece and was deemed a “poor man’s” diet, containing foods that were locally grown and readily available to people in their region. The Mediterranean diet reflects a culture’s normal pattern of eating, which is 25%-35% fat with no more than 7% to 8% of those calories coming from saturated fats. Today, as in the past, these foods include fruits, vegetables, olives, legumes, wine, nuts, and grains.

Here are some of the standards in the Mediterranean Diet to adopt into your lifestyle!

• The diet is rich in plant sources: fruits, vegetables, grains, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds

• Most foods are seasonally and locally grown

• Each meal includes vegetables, fruits, and grains

• Nuts (walnuts), beans/ legumes (lentils, chickpeas), seeds (sesame) are used most often

• Olives and olive oil are the principal sources of fat; no margarine and little butter is used in cooking (baking is another story!)

• Milk, cheese, and yogurt are eaten on a daily basis, but in moderation

• Red meat is eaten twice a month

• Fish (shellfish, tuna, salmon, shrimp, clams) and poultry are mostly eaten

• 7 eggs/week; including in baking

• Fresh fruits are eaten for desserts; otherwise sweets are prepared with nuts and honey

• Moderate consumption of wine: one glass for women, two glasses for men

• They engage in physical activity on a daily basis

• They observe portion-controlled meals

Check the Nutrition Center at for more valuable information about how to make lifestyle changes.

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