What are you doing to keep your heart healthy? February is American Heart Month, so it’s the perfect time to take a serious look at how you’re treating your ticker. Heart disease is still the number one killer of women in the US, but many aren’t aware of the diet mistakes they’re making that raise their risk of getting sick. We talked to Rima Kleiner, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, to get her best heart-healthy tips.

Healthy woman eating fruits for breakfast

How Can You Improve Your Diet to Help Your Heart?  

1. Swap out meat and poultry for seafood. Kleiner recommends eating seafood instead of meat two or more times per week to increase your intake of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which boost heart health. For instance, swap your beef burger for a salmon burger, or change your chicken salad into a tuna salad.

2. Have fruit for dessert six days per week. If you can’t ignore your sweet tooth, then have fruit as your dessert six days per week and indulge in sugary treats on the seventh. “Try finishing dinner Mediterranean-style, with fresh or baked fruit on most nights, and save your dessert for Sunday night, or a special occasion. It will help you avoid a lot of calories, saturated fat, and added sugars,” Kleiner explains.

3. Always order salad with your restaurant meal. Having a produce-rich salad with oil and vinegar every time you eat out can help your heart. Kleiner shares that most restaurant meals tend to be filled with sodium, and eating potassium-rich vegetables can help counter its negative effects. Plus, you’ll get a dose of dietary fiber, which lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Are You Making These Diet Mistakes That Hurt Your heart?

1. Avoiding All Fat: Kleiner frequently sees people who think fat is bad for their hearts, so they avoid all of it — but this can be a mistake. “You do want to limit saturated fats and cut out trans fats, which are found in packaged or processed foods containing hydrogenated oils. But you need to eat healthy fats, like those found in salmon, avocados, and olives, for your heart. In fact, the omega-3s found in seafood are essential, meaning our bodies don’t make them, and we must get them from our diet,” she shares.

2. Eating the Same Things Every Day: Kleiner sees many people who aren’t eating a diverse diet. They tend to consume the same things all the time and get stuck in a food rut, even if it’s healthy. “While I find that some people do eat vegetables, fruit, and seafood, they don’t eat enough of them, and they don’t eat a variety. They stick with one fish they know how to cook or their two favorite vegetables, but they forget or just get too busy to try new things. I find that their blood cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure go down when they add another serving or two of different vegetables and fruit each day, along with more fish per week. And they actually get excited about trying new things,” she says. Eating a variety of healthy foods is important for your heart.

3. Thinking Everything Organic Is Healthy: Organic labels can be deceptive. Simply having this tag on a nutrition panel doesn’t make the food healthy. “I see a lot of people who think an organic cookie, cracker, or cereal is better for them than the non-organic variety. While the organic version may contain a few more nutrients, it’s still a packaged food. You want to avoid or limit them to keep your heart healthy,” Kleiner says.  

Your diet has a big impact on your heart health. Making small changes, and avoiding common mistakes, can go a long way to help.

Tell us what you’re planning to eat for American Heart Month on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)