Did you know that February is American Heart Month? For the month of February, we will be highlighting the different food groups in MyPlate and how you and your family can easily incorporate them into a heart healthy diet.
This week’s topic focuses on Protein Foods group, which is made up of not just animal proteins such as red meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, but also plant proteins such as nuts, beans, and soy products. Protein acts as a building block for the muscles, blood, tissues, and bones in the body. Many foods containing protein also contain B vitamins and magnesium, which help in metabolism, iron for oxygen transport in the blood, and zinc for a healthy immune system.
According to MyPlate, protein needs are dependent on age, sex, and activity level. It is important to get enough protein to keep the body and heart healthy, however, it’s important to balance the types of protein foods you eat to support heart health. Red meats, such as beef and pork, have higher levels of saturated fats than other protein sources, and should be eaten in moderation. Eating too many foods high in saturated fats can raise your LDL cholesterol, leading to an increase risk of heart disease.
In contrast, certain foods within the protein group, such as fatty fishes - salmon and albacore tuna - and plant proteins - walnuts and chia seeds - contain unsaturated fats that actually can improve heart health! The omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish can help to reduce blood triglyceride levels, decrease risk of heart disease, and even lower the risk of the most common type of stroke. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week to benefit from the heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids that they contain.
Choosing plant proteins or lean poultry, like chicken, is also a heart healthy choice since they are lower in saturated fat compared to red meat. Beans are also a heart healthy choice since they are high in fiber, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Try swapping out beef for turkey in your next burger, or making meatless Mondays a weekly tradition. Small changes like these can reduce the amounts of saturated fats in your diet and improve your overall heart health!
For more help on picking the best protein choice for you, visit: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/meat-poultry-and-fish-picking-healthy-proteins