February is Heart Health Month! Love your fruits and veggies...

Did you know that in addition to Valentine’s Day, the month of February also includes National Heart Health Month?! Well, if this is new info for you, no worries...you can still share the love!  Here’s a little inspiration and education on why reducing sugar intake is important not only for a healthy body, but also a healthy heart.

 Not too long ago, (November 2014), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study that found people who consumed 17 to 21 % of their daily calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to those who consumed 8% of calories from added sugar.  As well, those folks who consumed more than 21% of calories from added sugar had more than double the risk of dying from CVD.   Because of these findings, the American Heart Association revamped their guidelines and now recommends women have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day (equivalent to 100 calories) and men have no more than 9 teaspoons (equivalent to 150 calories) per day.

So, in honor of a healthier heart, I am sharing these top 5 tips for reducing added sugar every day. 

Limit and/or remove sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB). A 12- ounce can of soda has ~9 teaspoons of sugar, equivalent to 35 grams and 140 calories. Sugar-sweetened beverages include not only soda but also fruit juices, fancy coffee drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, sugar-sweetened kefir, even organic juices. Simply eliminating sugary beverages from your diet can significantly reduce your daily added sugar consumption.  Other strategies to limit your intake that will help you rethink your drink: consider a smaller size beverage (6 to 8 ounces), add sparkling water to juices or reach for your water bottle and refill it during the day. 

Read the food label or Nutrition Facts Label. Use this information as a guide:  review the serving size (look for the number of servings a food or beverage might contain) and the nutrient data (total carbohydrates, sugars) when making your choices.  Read the ingredients list.  Note that even “sugar” has aliases —the most common are:  high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, syrup, sucrose, fructose and dextrose.   

Focus on fiber when you break your fast.  Breakfast is not the time for dessert—feed your belly, not your sweet tooth. Using the Nutrition Facts label, look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.   Oatmeal, hot quinoa, whole grain bread products, berries and pears are popular choices high fiber breakfast choices.  Complement these foods with protein and healthy fats to ensure satiety and more evenly control blood sugar.  

Control the condiments.  Condiments like marinades, BBQ sauce, ketchup, and salad dressing can sneak in extra sugar. Two tablespoons of ketchup has 7.4 grams (nearly two teaspoons!) of sugar—almost one-third the daily recommendation for women! Observe the type, the frequency and the amount of condiments you add and ask yourself “Is there a better alternative?”, “Am I adding ketchup out of taste or habit?”, “Can I use less?” Small changes add up and can contribute to an overall reduction in sugar. 

Satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally sweet foods. Replace your traditional sweet tooth favorites (candy, desserts, cakes, cookies, and pastries) with other sweet treats.  Choose naturally sweet foods like fruits, but some vegetables too—red, orange and yellow bell peppers, carrots and sugar snap peas.  Think about many of the produce offers from your weekly CSA share or visit to the Famer’s Markets.

Choose one or all as you find new ways to please your palate while promoting hearth health (not just in February, but all year long). 

Eat well to be well!