February is American Heart Month

Most of us associate February with Valentine’s Day.  And we all know what that means- chocolate.  But February isn’t just for celebrating love and candy.  The American Heart Association has deemed the month of February American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States yet it is one of the most preventable chronic diseases. The American Heart Association has a fun interactive quiz that will help you identify your risk for developing heart disease along with personalized recommendations to help you improve your heart health. 
One of the important components of a healthy heart is a healthy cholesterol profile.  The numbers below are for an ideal cholesterol profile:
*Total cholesterol <200
*LDL cholesterol (this is the bad stuff) <100
*HDL cholesterol  (this is the good stuff) > 60 
Aside from genetics, one of the only effective ways to increase your HDL or good cholesterol is through exercise.  And you can decrease your LDL or bad cholesterol quite dramatically through diet.
1.) Increase the amount of fruits and veggies you eat.
2.) Increase the amount of whole grains, beans, and legumes in your diet.
3.) Decrease the amount of animal products you consume especially high fat meats and dairy
4.) Avoid tobacco and keep alcohol intake to a single serving a day
Oats are a super-stellar food for helping to reduce unhealthy cholesterol.  It’s high in soluble fiber, the gummy stuff that helps bind cholesterol circulating in your blood stream.  As a nutrition therapist in Cambridge, all of my clients are on the go and have a hard time fitting in a balanced breakfast.  Cooking up a batch of oatmeal and topping it with dried fruit and nuts it’s a great way to start your day.  So, here’s a simple way to add a tasty breakfast to your week that is both heart and budget friendly.
1.) Cook a batch of quick cooking oats according to package directions.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week but save time by cooking a bigger batch at once.
2.) If you want, use milk or orange juice to thin out your oatmeal and add a little flavor or creaminess.
3.) Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
4.) Top with walnuts or almonds and dried fruit
5.) Enjoy