Consuming too much added sugar can significantly increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine.
A heart healthy diet is low in refined sugar and sweeteners, low in sodium, low in trans fats, and high in nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and whole grains.
Let’s start with sugar (since you will be seeing “the big red heart” a LOT this month!) The latest research continues to show that sugar causes inflammation; suppresses the immune system; is a leading contributor to obesity and adult-onset diabetes; and increases our risk of cardiovascular disease. Sodium is another heart concern; consuming too much salt can increase our risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Tips for Kicking your Sugar & Salt Cravings
Ready to fight back? I recommend, whenever possible, flavoring foods with alternatives to sugar and salt. Try a few of these food flavoring tweaks in your own meals!
- When recipes call for sugar, try chopped dates, raw honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup.
- Instead of salt, try chopped onions, garlic, Braggs liquid aminos, and nutritional yeast.
- Ditch the salt shaker for herbs and spices. There are dozens to select — from Italian flavorings such as rosemary, thyme and basil; ground spices such as cayenne and chili powder; or simple additions that pack a lot of flavor, such as cumin and lemon pepper.
- Multiply the benefits of choosing spices over salt by using natural anti-inflammatories such as fresh ginger or ground turmeric.
- To flavor fish, vegetables and salads, try citrus — lemon, lime and orange are great complements to fresh foods. Use a tablespoon or two of citrus juice, or for a more intense flavor, try a teaspoon of finely grated citrus zest.
- Replace soda, sport drinks and energy drinks with flavored water. Use citrus juice or try muddled blueberries, raspberries, mint or basil! You’ll have a sweet and healthy alternative.
- Other heart healthy tips for your daily diet include adding more fiber to your diet with whole grains, fruits and leafy greens; and including healthy fats in each meal, such as nuts, flax and chia seeds, olive oil, and avocado.
Small Steps Lead to Big Changes
If that’s not what you’re currently doing, all of those changes might sound a little overwhelming. I encourage you to make one little change at a time if that’s more doable for you. Small steps lead to big changes.
If you need support making healthy changes, I’m here to help you! One conversation could change your life! Let’s talk!