It’s only fitting that February, a month that hosts a holiday all to do with roses, chocolate, and proclamations of love, is also a month to honor something that’s truly instrumental in keeping us healthy and, well…alive: your heart!
February has been deemed the American Heart Month by the American Heart Association (AHA) for over fifty years and works to raise awareness for one of the leading causes of death for both men and women in the United States today. With more than 17 million deaths reported from heart disease each year, and an estimated 6.6 million person increase in that total by the year 2030, heart health is something that’s an ever-present issue in this country.
At the Food Bank of South Jersey, we believe that food has the capability to heal more than just your hunger, which is why we’re committed to providing essential nutrition education programs through our Healthy Living Initiative (HLI).
HLI hosts a myriad of nutrition education courses, workshops, lunch and learns, cafeteria tastings, and more to help the community we serve to learn about the ways they can sustain their health through nutrition. The team most recently shared their healthy living tips by attending a Hope Mobile event at KIPP Academy in Camden and giving out fruit and kale smoothies to patrons waiting to pick up fresh produce, eggs, and meat in the monthly distribution.
“This is a blessing,” says Charlene, a volunteer and patron of the Hope Mobile, “It helps out a lot and I’ll tell people if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve got to try it!”
Tricia Yeo, the Healthy Living Initiative Coordinator at FBSJ, and one of the distributors of the tasty smoothies worth trying, gave me a few of her top tips for maintaining a healthy heart and lifestyle. “I always tell people: you have the power to make healthy choices,” states Yeo. By following her simple steps below, I’m not sure we can argue with that!
1. Watch Your Sodium! In a world where fast food reigns supreme, it’s difficult to keep your sodium levels low especially if you’re eating processed food like TV dinners, take out, and ready-made meals. The recommended daily amount is 2,800 milligrams per day and managing that can be challenging if you’re not careful. Check your nutrition labels, be wary of processed and sugary sweets where sodium can lurk in maximum quantities, and eat mostly whole foods, fruits, and vegetables to avoid this heart-stopping nutrient.
2. Minimize Saturated Fats… The American Dietetic Association recommends that saturated fat should be less than 10% of your daily total calories and can often hide in foods like butter, meat, whole milk, ice cream, and more. Stay away from these fatty foods and look for products with healthier fat sources such as salmon, olive oil, and nuts which are rich in omega 3’s and 6’s.
3. Fill Up On Fiber. Foods containing fiber can help your health in many ways! Soluble fiber can help you feel full and assist in weight control while insoluble fiber can help lower your cholesterol, both of which are crucial in maintaining a healthy, active, and functioning heart!
4. Eat Your Fruits & Veggies! It’s not just something your mother said to torture you – eating enough whole fruits and vegetables can give your body fiber, potassium, and calcium which all contribute to the health of your heart.
5. Have Fun with Flavor. Spice up your life and your food by loading up on herbs, spices, lemon juice, pepper, and salt-free seasoning blends which will help perk up your meals with some personality and keep your salt intake at the low level you need to stay healthy!
Need some inspiration for how to cook to maintain a healthier lifestyle? Check out our HLI Cookbook available for purchase here!