It’s February, and you know what that means: it’s time to start thinking about your heart. Aside from all the chocolates and love that Valentine’s Month is known for, it’s important to recognize the risks Latinos face for heart disease and start incorporating ways to combat it.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Latinos, who face higher risks of the disease because of high blood pressure and diabetes rates. According to the National Lipid Association, there are many actions you can take to decrease your risk for heart disease—particularly eating heart-healthy foods. Latino-style diets can be very heart-healthy, including rich foods like red and black beans, avocados, colored vegetables, yams and plantains, grilled lean meats and brown rice.
In honor of National Heart Month, here are five simple diet changes to help keep Latino cooking in your kitchen and your heart healthy throughout the year.
- Eat fiber-rich whole grains. A good rule to remember is to fill ¼ of your dinner plate with brown rice instead of white. Maize, yucca, yams and plantains are all good sources of fiber that taste great. You can also swap whole-wheat or corn tortillas instead of white for a quick health boost. Lastly, whole-grain cereals will help ensure you start your morning right.
- Eat plant-based or lean protein. Lean protein is healthier and will leave you feeling lighter than regular cuts of meat. Try grilling more fatty fish like salmon during the week. Fish is a good source of protein and full of helpful omega-3s that can help decrease your risk for heart disease. Skinless chicken breasts and lean beef and pork are also great sources of protein that can still add flavor to your Latino-style dish.
- Eat your fruits and vegetables. Eating colorful red, green and yellow peppers add a nice pop of color to your dish and help reduce your risk for heart disease. Squashes like napoles and chayote are also great options to try. Spicy sofrito and tomatillo sauce are both healthy and full of bursts of flavor. Fruits like papaya, mangos, bananas and pineapple can add a nice contrast and make excellent options for snacks and dessert.
- Go for healthy fats. Eating large amounts of saturated fats (usually in the form of dairy) can lead to raised amounts of unhealthy cholesterol and contribute to the development of heart disease. Increasing your healthy fat intake and reducing your saturated fat intake is a simple way to improve your heart health. You can do this by avoiding whole milk, full-fat cheeses, lard and butter in cooking. You can also try using more avocado and less cheese in meals. Snacking on raw and unsalted nuts and seeds is another simple way to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet. Finally, using canola, corn, extra-virgin olive and safflower oil are wonderful substitutions for butter.
With these simple diet changes, you’ll be well on your way to feeding a happier heart.
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