Help Your Heart with Meatless Mondays and Fish Fridays

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in America. About 715,000 Americans have a heart attack each year, with 600,000 deaths occurring annually due to heart disease. These statistics are alarming – but heart disease is preventable and controllable. For some people, high cholesterol is a hereditary condition. Regardless of genetics, a healthy diet and regular physical activity are keys to good health. A well-balanced diet should include a combination of whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables.

The American diet is typically high in animal products (meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, etc.). Early research points to a higher fat, animal-based diet altering the bacteria in our gut which aid digestion. While human studies are limited, preliminary findings indicate that specific gut bacteria may increase with an animal-based diet, leading to inflammation and intestinal diseases.

Animal products are a source of saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which can build up in the arteries leading to blockages if consumed in high amounts. Reducing the size of a meat serving is one way to improve your diet. A proper serving size for cooked meat/poultry should be three ounces (deck of cards or palm of hand size). Another healthy diet option is to try meatless meals or choose fish in place of meat.

Adopt Meatless Mondays:
Each week, plan at least one lunch or dinner meal without meat. Try a recipe with beans or lentils as the protein. Make sure to include plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables for a balanced MyPlate meal. Suggestions for meatless main dishes include:

Minestrone soup
Minestrone soup
3-Bean Chili
Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas

Veggie Pizza
Veggie Pizza
Veggie-Stuffed Baked Potato
Red Beans and Rice

Veggie and Tofu Stir-Fry
Veggie and Tofu Stir-Fry
Bean Burritos
Pasta Primavera

For more ideas, check out

Fish Fridays:
The key to heart health is eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium; and high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Swapping beef, pork or poultry with fish for one to two meals per week offers more unsaturated and omega-3 fats, with less saturated fats. Studies show people who eat fish regularly have lower heart disease and heart attack risks. In fact, the risk of ischemic stroke is reduced when fish is consumed once a week, and risk of coronary heart disease is reduced when fish is eaten twice a week. Remember, fish should be baked or broiled, as frying eliminates those benefits. Some people take Cod Liver Oil supplements for heart and other health benefits, but why not try a tasty recipe for cod instead? The B vitamins (3, 6, and 12), potassium, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), and protein in cod, as well as other fish and seafood are worth it!

Debra Heverling