There is no better way to celebrate American Heart Month this February that by keeping your own heart healthy. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States, and eating a healthy diet will keep your ticker in tip-top shape. The diet options to choose from are vast. However, there are only a select few diets that leading health professionals would recommend, and for the 5th year in a row an expert panel from US News & World Report selected the DASH diet as the Best Diet, Healthiest Diet and the Best Diet for Diabetes.
The DASH diet was originally designed as a lifelong method to lowering blood pressure, which explains why DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Since then, research studies have shown that this gold-star diet also reduces the risk of many diseases including heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and has been proven effective in weight loss.
The DASH diet is centered on fruits, vegetables and choosing low-fat dairy. With any lifestyle change, don’t “dash” head first into a new diet. Ease in by making a few simple changes such as drinking a glass of low-fat milk at lunch instead of soda, or adding a serving of fruit or vegetables at a meal.
Preparing meals that fit the DASH guidelines can be easy as long as you are willing to take the time to make them. Search for recipes that offer multiple food groups. Start your day with a DASH breakfast such as the Fruit Salsa Yogurt Parfait, an easy “combination food” that fits whole grains, fruit and low-fat dairy into one tasty meal. This Fiesta Rice Skillet Dinner is not only family-friendly, but features key DASH components such as whole-grain brown rice, vegetables, lean turkey, black beans and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
More good news: Pizza fits into a healthy DASH diet, such as the Heart-Shaped Mozzarella and Fontina Pizza that is piled high with vegetables and diced lean chicken breast. Pair with a low-fat glass of milk and chocolate-covered strawberries for a perfect Valentine’s Day meal to make with your sweetheart.
While the DASH diet doesn’t offer an exercise plan, it does encourage being more physically active. Find activities that you enjoy, or vow to try new exercises. With any change in your diet and lifestyle it will take planning, self-discipline and some creativity. Leading a healthier lifestyle should be something to strive for throughout your entire life, not just temporarily to lose those pounds you gained over the holiday months. Make the commitment, and work your way toward a healthier heart, a healthier body and a healthier you.
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