Human Nutrition, Diet and Health > HNDH Blog > Posts > Get to the Heart of the Matter

Did you know that February is American Heart Month, and not because of Valentine’s Day? 

Since 1963 Congress has required the president to proclaim February “American Heart Month” to raise public awareness about heart disease. Heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death. 

Following a heart healthy diet is more than just eating fat-free cookies and using low-fat mayo.  It means eating more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and less meats and getting more exercise. 

A heart-healthy diet works by helping you feel full on fewer calories.  Fewer calories promote weight loss.  Weight loss can help to lower cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease.  Call it the domino effect. 

So, let’s just cut through the fat and get right to the heart of the matter.  Here’s what you need to know to make heart-healthy food choices:

High Carbohydrate Food Choices

Best:  whole grain breads and cereals, oatmeal, cream of wheat, barley, high fiber cereals, and brown rice; whole wheat pasta; potatoes with the skin; sweet potatoes; and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

Okay in moderation:  enriched white breads and other cereals; canned fruits and vegetables; fruit and vegetable 

Not so good:  sugar in any form; candy; sugar-rich foods; baked goods made with white flour; chips.

High Protein Foods

Best:  dried peas and beans and tofu; nuts and seeds; fish and shellfish; non-fat dairy products and egg whites.

Okay in moderation:  poultry white meat without skin; very lean beef and pork.

Not as good:  fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb; organ meats; egg yolks; whole fat dairy foods; and processed meats.


Best:  there are none.

Okay used sparingly: canola oil; olive oil; trans-fat free margarine.

Not good: any animal fat; lard; butter, margarines containing trans-fats (read the label); shortening; and partially hydrogenated oils.

Now, don’t choke on your Valentine candy.  All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, some just less often than others.  Be smart and make healthy lifestyle choices more often than not.  Give your true love flowers instead of candy and enjoy a romantic walk!  

There are several websites you might considering visiting for more information:

Simple Cooking with Heart- lots of recipes and video how-tos (

Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Eat Right website (

eXtension's Families Food and Fitness (

Submitted by Valerie Conner, Regional Extension Agent, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, Telephone 334-361-7273, email


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