Celebrate September — National Cholesterol Education Month — by giving your pantry a heart-healthy makeover.
You might have the best intentions in the world when it comes to eating right for your heart. But if healthy foods aren't readily available in your home, you may fall back into bad habits or call for take-out too often.
Stock your pantry with heart-healthy choices, however, and it will be easy to throw together meals that are kind to your cholesterol levels. Start by putting these items on your grocery list.
- Oils. All fats are not bad for your heart. Pick oils that are low in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol. Canola, olive, corn and sunflower oils all are healthy choices.
- Nuts. Nuts and seeds also are good sources of unsaturated fats, but they can be high in calories, so watch your serving size.
- Cereal. Skip the sugary stuff and go for whole-grain cereals, such as oatmeal or oat bran.
- Flour. Often you can substitute whole-wheat or spelt flour for white flour in baking. Try cornmeal for muffins or pancakes.
- Pasta. Pick whole-grain pastas, brown rice, quinoa, couscous or bulgur instead of pastas made from white flour.
- Beans. Beans and other legumes, such as kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas are nutritious ways to fill up. Canned beans are fine, but pick ones labeled low-sodium.
- Tuna. Canned (or fresh) fish, especially tuna and salmon, have lots of omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says.
- Vinegar. Balsamic vinegar makes a great salad dressing or flavorful sauce.
Watch out for processed foods, such as crackers and chips, that might be high in trans fats. If you need a treat, the American Heart Association suggests looking for low- or no-fat and low-sodium choices. And fill your refrigerator each week with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Northwest Medical Center wants you to help you love your heart better. Our Heart and Vascular Institute is built on the foundation of proactive health care. For more information about our diagnostic tools or minimally invasive surgeries, or for a free physician referral, call 1-866-4HCA-DOCS (442-2362).