Learn 5 Ways to Help Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease plus a protein and fiber packed Fiber One Breakfast Cookie Dough recipe!
Disclosure: I’ve partnered with the General Mills Bell Institute of Health & Nutrition to bring you this blog! I was compensated for my time, all opinions are my own.
Every February we celebrate American Heart Month which also raises awareness for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement. Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year which is more than men at an average death rate of one per minute? AND, more women die of heart disease than all cancers combined. Check out the statistics here.
While many risk factors contribute to heart disease, there are several ways to help lower your risk through healthier diet and lifestyle choices. While I’d love to cover every item, that would require several books. So, here are 5 Easy Ways to Help Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease including a delicious recipe for Fiber One Breakfast Cookie Dough!
1. Get enough sleep both in quantity and quality.
Too little sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure and makes weight loss more difficult. We also tend to reach for comfort food when we are tired which adds in plenty of extra calories. Try to fit exercise in regularly to improve sleep, as well as avoiding caffeine (especially later in the day) and turning off screens well before bedtime to allow your brain to prepare for sleep. Aim for 7-9 uninterrupted hours.
2. Enjoy some chocolate.
This is probably my favorite tip 🙂 The great news here is that while chocolate contains fat, research has shown that it doesn’t have much if any effect on cholesterol levels. And, chocolate contains flavanols which possess antioxidant qualities and also may have other heart-healthy benefits like potentially lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow and making platelets less “sticky” and less able to form clots. For the most benefit, stick with high quality dark chocolate, the less processed the better. I encourage 60% or more cocoa in the actual chocolate bar. And portions do count here, one or two squares per day should do the trick to satisfy your sweet tooth.
3. Enjoy heart-healthy fats:
The American Heart Association recommends including mono and polyunsaturated fats when possible and limiting saturated and trans fats. The good news there is that we benefit from delicious foods we already love like avocados, olives/olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
Some tips include:
Substitute some mashed avocado on your sandwich instead of butter or mayo. Top your morning toast with some avocado or add it to salads and decrease the amount of creamy dressing.
Include ground flax seed on yogurt, cottage cheese, or in smoothies, muffins, pancakes and waffles for extra fiber, protein and omega 3’s.
Switch to olive oil in your cooking instead of butter to up your intake of monounsaturated fat. Use it to make simple homemade salad dressings or to roast veggies. For calorie control, limit servings to a few teaspoons.
Enjoy salmon, herring or sardines twice per week for an omega 3 boost. Even tuna cooked in the can (some brands do this) provides a few grams of omega 3 fatty acids. Think outside the box and try fish in new ways. A whole grain cracker topped with avocado, sardines and a squeeze of lemon is delicious. And don’t forget about canned salmon! It’s available any time, is affordable, and so easy to incorporate into salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes and more.
Remember-the key here is portion control as fatty foods are higher in calories, and keeping a healthy weight for you is important too. You can get too much of a good thing.
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4. Eat more fiber from foods like:
Research has shown that soluble fiber found in whole grain oats and oat bran can help lower LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol. 3g of soluble fiber in addition to a diet low in saturated fat may reduce the risk of heart disease. One ½ cup serving of old fashioned oats contains 2g of soluble fiber. Dry cereals like Cheerios™ also pack soluble fiber from oats, a 1 cup serving provides 1 gram
Fruits and veggies: Not only are fruits and veggies filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, but they are fab sources of fiber. Raspberries and blackberries are the winners with 8g of fiber per cup- that’s about 1/3 of your daily recommendation as a woman. Broccoli and cauliflower are easy meal add-ins with 5-6g per cooked cup.
Nuts: Pair nuts like pistachios, almonds, peanuts or walnuts with fruit for a balanced and filling snack. Chop some to toss on a salad or into your yogurt or oatmeal. Add powdered peanut butter (peanut flour) into smoothies or sauces, and don’t forget spreading your favorite nut butter on whole grain bread or a banana.
For some extra help, here is a link to the Top Fiber-Rich Foods List via Today’s Dietitian Magazine
5. Move, Move, Move!
We all know that exercise is a good thing for general health, but how does it lower your risk of heart disease? Exercise helps to lower blood pressure, and can increase the HDL or good cholesterol among many other benefits. The American Heart Association suggests 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. It is also recommended to do some form of strength training exercise 2 days per week. Find more info on exercise here.
As promised, here is a dessert for breakfast recipe packed with protein and fiber that will satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you full all morning. With 11g of fiber thanks to a combo of old-fashioned oats, powdered peanut butter and a delicious NEW Fiber One Layered Chewy Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Bar, you’ll hit approximately 44% of your daily recommended fiber intake in your first meal of the day! Enjoy 🙂
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- 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 3 Tablespoons powdered peanut butter
- 1 packet stevia or preferred sweetener
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons old fashioned oats
- 1 Fiber One™ Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Layered Chewy Bar, cut into small pieces
- Add yogurt, powdered peanut butter, stevia, vanilla and oats in a bowl, stirring until well combined.
- Fold in 3/4 of the Fiber One bar into the mixture and garnish with the remainder.