February is American Heart Month, and Shore Clinical Nutrition Manager Susan O’Donnell, of Unidine Corporation, challenges you to incorporate more ‘functional foods’ in your diet every day. Functional foods not only provide important nutrients, but evidence shows they can actually prevent heart disease and other chronic health conditions. Fiber and unsaturated fats are the hallmarks of heart healthy functional foods.
The challenge – meet your daily or weekly goals for each of these functional food categories:
- Fruits & Veggies: Eat 2 fresh fruits and 4-6 cups of veggies daily (Example day: an apple, one cup of blueberries, and a salad made with 2 cups leafy greens, 1 cup cucumbers and 1 small tomato chopped up would satisfy your daily requirement)
- Olive oil – Use 1 tsp to ½ tbsp. daily. Use it to saute your veggies!
- Fortified margarine – Plant phytosterols can help prevent the absorption of bad cholesterol and can be found in margarines like Smart Balance, Promise, Activ or Benecol. Use 2-4 tbsp. a day, ex: use in cooking and on whole grain toast.
- Whole grains – Try to get 7 servings of whole grains a day. Examples of one serving include 1 slice of whole grain bread; 1 cup of popcorn; a half cup of brown rice; 1 cup of bran cereal, etc.
- Legumes and nuts – Consume 25 grams of soy protein daily (try soy milk in your cereal, for example) and 5 oz. of nuts, nut butters or seeds each week. A 1 to 1.5 oz. serving of nuts, for example, would be a small handful, or two tablespoons nut butter.
- Omega-3 fatty rich foods - Eat 2-3 servings or 8 oz. weekly (e.g. salmon, canned light tuna, cod, sardines, lake trout, Atlantic mackerel)
- Tea and Coffee - Drink green tea at least 4x a week, choose to drink coffee black no more than 12oz daily.