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Listen To Your Heart: Nutrition for Heart Health

By: Aizya Ali, RDN, LD

American Heart Month is here, and love is in the air! The American Heart Association lists nutrition as being one of the most important modifiable factors in reducing our risk for heart disease. This longitudinal study spanning over 32 years, found that the participants who incorporated heart-healthy foods had a 14-21% lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to those who did not. Roses are red, violets are blue...use these three strategies to nourish the organ that does so much for you! 


Olive You with All My Heart 

Let's talk about how fat fits into a balanced diet, we promise we won't go bacon your heart. Fats can be categorized as unsaturated, saturated, or trans. Saturated and trans fats are found primarily in red meat, full fat dairy, lard, cured meats, and prepackaged convenience snacks. They are often solid at room temperature.  Limit saturated and trans fats as they can increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.  

Incorporate more unsaturated fats for a heart of gold. Unsaturated fats balance blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve blood sugar management. Don't know where to start? You aorta know we have examples: 

  1. Use olive, peanut, canola, or avocado oil to stir-fry vegetables. 
  2. Add 1/4-1/2 of an avocado to your favorite smoothie recipe. Short on time? Consider frozen avocado cubes. 
  3. Fatty-fish and nuts are both rich in heart-healthy fats! Pair these lovebirds into one dish by coating the fish in chopped nuts, before baking or pan searing. 
    1. Fatty Fish (fresh, frozen, or canned)
      1. salmon
      2. tuna
      3. herring 
      4. trout 
      5. anchovies 
      6. sardines 
    2. Nuts 
      1. walnuts 
      2. pecans 
      3. almonds 
      4. pistachios 
      5. peanuts 

Fat enhances the flavor of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. Fat is also needed to better absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  

We Didn't Know Love Lentil We Met You 

The American Heart Association recommends 25-30 grams of dietary fiber per day. Currently, most Americans are only consuming around 15 grams daily. Adequate fiber intake can improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Remember to increase fiber intake slowly and hydrate regularly to avoid any gastrointestinal distress. Here are some fiber-rich foods you're sure to loaf! 

  • whole wheat bread (about 3 grams fiber per slice)  
  • rye bread (2 grams per slice) 
  • whole wheat pasta (5-6 grams of fiber per 1 cup, cooked) 
  • popcorn (3.6 grams of fiber per 3 cups) 
  • quinoa (5 grams of fiber per 1 cup, cooked)  
  • brown rice (3.5 grams of fiber per 1 cup, cooked) 
  • oatmeal (4 grams of fiber per 1 cup, cooked)  
  • berries (3-8 grams of fiber per 1 cup) 
  • passionfruit (24.5 grams of fiber per 1 cup) 
  • avocado (6.7 grams of fiber per half an avocado) 
  • apples (4.8 grams of fiber per medium-sized apple) 
  • pear (5.5 grams of fiber per medium-sized pear) 
  • kiwi (2 grams of fiber) 
  • pomegranate (11.3 grams of fiber) 
  • lentils (15.6 grams of fiber per 1 cup, cooked)  
  • beans (4-8 grams of fiber per ½ cup, cooked) 
  • nuts (1-3.5 grams of fiber per 1 oz) 
  • seeds (1-3.8 grams of fiber per tablespoon)  


So Mushroom In Our Hearts for You 

The Dietary Guidelines recommends a sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams per day. That is roughly equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt. Feel like you don't shake it like a saltshaker? Over 70% of American's sodium intake is not from the salt we put on our food at the dinner table, but from prepackaged and convenience foods, so the best way to reduce intake is to review the nutrition facts label. A food with 140 milligrams or less is considered a low sodium option.  

Afraid of losing flavor? Don't be salty, consider experimenting with umami-rich foods. Umami translates to "savory or deliciousness" in Japanese, and is now considered the fifth taste profile, along with sweet, bitter, sour, and salty. Glutamate, a non-essential amino acid, is one of the compounds responsible for that oh so yummy and rich umami flavor. The process of ripening, cooking, or curing can boost the amount of free glutamate, which enhances the umami-ness—yep, we're making that a word. A recent study of Japanese adults found that participants were able to reduce their sodium intake by 12-23%, at the population level, by including umami-rich foods. Savor the flavor by incorporating the following:  

  • cooked or dried mushrooms 
  • dried seaweed 
  • roasted tomatoes 
  • toasted nuts 
  • nutritional yeast 
  • sardines 
  • anchovies 

Is your heart aching for more? Muffin compares to this chocolatey treat enriched with fiber, heart-healthy fat, vitamin C and A for optimal balance.  


Pumpkin Avocado Muffins

Yield: 24-33 mini brownies 


  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (3.5 grams of fiber) 
  • 1/2 medium mashed avocado (4.6 grams of fiber) 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1/4 cup honey 
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce (0.4 grams of fiber) 
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour (3 grams of fiber) 
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt 
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips 


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a mini-muffin tin with liners or grease with oil or non-stick cooking spray. 
  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl except for the chocolate chips. Stir until the batter is smooth.  
  • Fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips. 
  • Fill each muffin well with 1 tablespoon of batter.  
  • Bake in the oven for 14-16 minutes or until the brownie bites are slightly firm to touch. 
  • Remove from oven and let cool for about 15-20 minutes. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling before enjoying. The brownie bites taste best after completely cooling.  


Until next time, we can heartly wait to speak with you again!  

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