February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about taking care of your heart. Dietary and lifestyle choices can make a big difference in heart health—and making changes is not as hard as you think.
Try our heart-smart hacks for simple, effective shifts in food choices that may have long-term benefits.
Eating for Heart Health
Your overall eating pattern matters for your heart health. Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products with dietary fiber (particularly soluble fiber) may reduce the risk of heart disease.3
Think about your whole diet in terms of getting more fiber and the right types of fats (mono- and polyunsaturated). Be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need through:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Skinless poultry and fish
- Nuts and legumes
- Nontropical vegetable oils
Focus on Fiber
If your goal is to increase your dietary fiber, focus on produce, whole grains, and legumes.
1. Load Up on Produce
Why? Eating more fiber through fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of heart disease, increase longevity, and lower blood pressure.
How much? Fruits and vegetables are great ways to get fiber. Federal guidelines recommend at least 1.5–2 cups per day of fruit and 2–3 cups per day of vegetables.4
Stealthy Ways to Add Fruits and Veggies:
- Make it grate. Use a grater or food processor to shred zucchini, beets, carrots, or parsnips for all sorts of recipes, such as our delicious Publix Aprons® Carrot Ginger Muffins.
- Go spiral. Revamp your favorite pasta dishes with spaghetti squash or spiralized vegetables. Make it colorful with spiralized zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets. Enjoy our twist on a classic, Lentil Bolognese over Zoodles.
- Blend right in. Serve them in an array of soups, such as our Golden Tomato and Peach Soup, Apple-Sweet Potato Soup with Apple Yogurt Topper, and Grilled Peach Gazpacho. Check out our refreshing Peach-Mango Protein Smoothies, or dream up your own concoction.
- Riced is nice. Riced cauliflower makes a subtle, savory addition to many meals, such as salads and meal bowls. Try it in our tasty Pork Chili Rancho recipe.
2. Gather Whole Grains
Why? Fiber in whole grains, specifically soluble fiber in oats, can help lower blood cholesterol levels. This is thanks to the power of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that essentially tells your liver to pull LDL cholesterol out of your blood. Then it binds to some of the cholesterol in your gut, keeping it from reaching your bloodstream.5
How much? Some clinical research suggests a benefit from consuming at least 3 grams of this fiber daily. A half-cup serving of dry oats (1 cup cooked oatmeal) provides 2 grams of soluble fiber.6
Quick Tips for Adding Oats:
Whether you’re craving sweet or savory, there are many delicious meals that include oats.
Check out more ideas for getting your whole grains.
3. Legumes for Days
Why? Legumes—such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas—also contain soluble fiber and can help lower blood cholesterol levels.7
How much? The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2–3 cups per week for men and 1.5–2 cups per week for women.
Here are some great ideas for adding more legumes, or pulses, into your diet.
Get the Good Fats
Eating foods high in saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.8 When eaten in moderation, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may lower blood levels of total and LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart attack.9 Let’s take a look at ways to make shifts toward the good fats through smart choices in dairy products, proteins, nuts, oils, and fish.10
1. Dive into Dairy
The National Institutes of Health recommends low-fat dairy products, such as skim or 1% milk. Try these quick tips to eat less saturated fat by including low-fat dairy in your diet.11
Change gradually. If you’re used to whole or 2% milk, taper off slowly by moving to 1% milk first, and eventually to skim milk.12
Be cheese wise. Choose cheeses with less fat and saturated fat by looking for reduced fat or low fat on the label. Publix Better Choice shelf tags can help you find these options quickly.
Substitute with yogurt.
2. Select Smart Proteins
Take these ideas to heart to enjoy proteins with less saturated fat:
- Select cuts of beef and pork with round or loin in the name, such as sirloin, tenderloin, or top round steak.
- Choose skinless poultry, or remove skin before eating. Ground chicken or turkey breast are also great options.
- Our Savory Turkey Meatloaf uses ground turkey breast with 7% fat.13
- Cooking methods matter. Grill, broil, roast, or bake meats and poultry, rather than frying them.
3. Get Nutty
Consuming more nuts may help lower your risk of heart disease.14 In fact, eating a handful of nuts a day (about 1/4 cup serving) is a great habit for heart health.15
4. Change Your Oil
Certain cooking oils, consumed in moderation, contain beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Follow these rules of thumb for choosing oils:
- Say no to coconut and other tropical oils. Despite the hype, coconut oil is a saturated fat and not recommended.16
- Instead, choose olive, canola, peanut, safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils.17
5. Fish for Fatty Acids
Oily fish—including salmon, anchovies, herring, tuna, sardines, and mackerel—offer long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids called EPA and DHA. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2 servings (8 ounces) per week of fish are associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease in adults.18
For the Love of You
Choosing how you eat is uniquely personal. It’s about your needs, your preferences, and your goals. As your wellness ally, Publix is in your corner with fresh ideas, recipes, and wellness icons that make it easier to shift toward wiser food choices. It’s all about you, at your very best.
1 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Heart Disease Risk Factors.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. August 10, 2015.
2 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Heart Disease Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. August 23, 2017.
3 Health claims: fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber, particularly soluble fiber, and risk of coronary heart disease. 21 C.F.R. § 101.77 (1993). Accessed November 30, 2018.
4 US Department of Health & Human Services. “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). November 16, 2017.
5 Health claims: Soluble fiber from certain foods and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). 21 C.F.R. § 101.81 (1997).
6 Othman, Rgia A., Mohammed H. Moghadasian, and Peter JH Jones. "Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan." Nutrition Reviews 69, no. 6 (June 1, 2011): 299–309.
7 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet." Mayo Clinic. September 22, 2015.
8 "Saturated Fat." American Heart Association. June 1, 2015.
9 “Polyunsaturated Fat.” American Heart Association. June 1, 2015.
10 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). “A Closer Look Inside Healthy Eating Patterns.” 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th ed. November 21, 2016.
11 Drouin-Chartier, Jean-Phillippe, Julie Anne Côté, Marie-Éve Labonté, Didier Brassard, et al. "Comprehensive Review of the Impact of Dairy Foods and Dairy Fat on Cardiometabolic Risk." Advances in Nutrition 7, no. 6 (November 1, 2016): 1041–51.
12 "Dairy Products—Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese." American Heart Association. April 16, 2018.
13 “Meat, Poultry, and Fish: Picking Healthy Proteins.” American Heart Association. March 26, 2017.
14 Guasch-Ferré, Marta, PhD, Xioaran Liu, PhD, Vasanti S. Malik, PhD, Qi Sun, PhD, ScD, et al. "Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease." Journal of the American College of Cardiology 70, no. 20 (November 14, 2017): 2519–32. November 13, 2018.
15 "4 Ways to Get Good Fats Infographic." American Heart Association. November 13, 2018.
16 "Saturated fats: Why all the hubbub over coconuts?" American Heart Association. June 21, 2017.
17 "Monounsaturated Fat." American Heart Association. June 1, 2015.
18 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). “A Closer Look Inside Healthy Eating Patterns: Seafood." 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th ed. November 21, 2016.