February is National Heart Month

It is fitting that February is National Heart Month – when we also celebrate Valentine’s Day.

February makes us think of the color red – red hearts for Valentine’s Day and National Wear Red Day for the American Heart Association. During this month of red, also think about red fruits and veggies for their heart healthy nutrition.

Red fruits and vegetables are full of essential nutrients that will not only keep your heart healthy, but the rest of your body healthy too. Overall, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of fiber. Fiber helps keep your heart healthy and lowers your risk for heart attack and stroke. Fiber helps lower these risks by moving some fats and cholesterol out of your body. Eating a high fiber diet means that not all of the fat and cholesterol you eat ends up in your bloodstream. This is good news for your heart.

Fruits and veggies are also low in calories. Adding them to meals can help maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight helps keep your heart healthy because it will work less to pump blood throughout the body. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and sodium and are cholesterol free. Some fruits and veggies, like bananas and tomatoes are also good sources of potassium which helps maintain healthy blood pressure, also great for your heart.

Where do we get the connection between the color red and heart health? The red coloring in fruits like red grapefruit and watermelon and in veggies like tomatoes and red peppers comes from the beta-carotene in vitamin A. Vitamin A helps keep your immune system strong and helps with a healthy heart and circulatory system. By choosing to eat red fruits and vegetables, you are choosing foods that will help keep your heart strong and healthy. During the month of February, Michigan State University Extension reminds you to go red by eating more red fruits and vegetables. Your heart will thank you!

For more information about healthy eating, contact a Michigan State University Extension office in your area.

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