Heart Healthy Valentine’s Day

February is known as American Heart Month, in which we raise awareness about heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. However, the good news is that we can make small, healthy lifestyle changes to reduce our risk of developing this disease.

There are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease. The risk factors we cannot change include age, gender, genetics, and race. Therefore, we should focus on the factors that we can change which include achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart healthy diet, stop smoking, exercising routinely, and managing diabetes, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

Losing just 5% of your current weight can significantly reduce your risk factors. The most effective way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit by eating healthier and exercising regularly.

Listed below are nutritional tips that can help you lose weight and prevent heart disease:


Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Aim for 7-9 servings per day and eat all the colors of the rainbow.

Eat 25-35 grams of fiber daily by choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Choose a variety of whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain breads, etc.

Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, which come from high fat animal products and processed foods.

Choose mostly heart healthy fats, which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are found in canola oil, olive oil, nuts, avocados, olives, and fatty fish.

Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces your risk for heart disease and reduces inflammation. Good sources include fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring, sardines, walnuts, soybeans, milled flaxseeds, and chia seeds.

Limit sweets, desserts, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Moderate your salt intake. Goal is to consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day.

Choose lean meats and low fat dairy products.

Substitute animal proteins with plant based proteins a few meals each week. Try black bean soup, veggie burgers, or tofu stir fries to mix things up.

Move more! The physical activity guidelines is to be active 150 minutes per week.

If you are interested in losing weight and would like more assistance, please contact Mary Nocera, Registered Dietitian, at UNC Lenoir Health Care for a consult (252.522.7711). A registered dietitian provides nutrition education and individualized recommendations that will help you successfully accomplish your goals.  


Enjoy these healthy, heart friendly recipes!

We would love to hear what you think about these recipes!
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Heart Healthy Recipes | Maple Soy Glazed Salmon

Maple Soy Glazed Salmon

Heart Healthy Recipe | Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

Mary Nocera, RD