Wearing red in not just for Valentines Day, but also for heart health awareness month. Yes, February is heart health month. According to the Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. That is a scary statistic when you stop to think about it, but it doesn’t have to be. You can take steps today to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

From a nutritional stand point there are many things we could be doing to create a healthier life style while lessening our chances for heart disease.

 Does out body need fat? Yes, it does. Fat has many roles in our body, its needed for cell growth, provides us with energy, keeps us warm on these cold winter days. Fat also helps absorbs some nutrients and produces important hormones too.

 For those of you who count calories, every gram of fat is nine calories regardless of the type of fat. It is the type of fat that we need to be concerned with. Trans fat is not one of the selections as it contains oils from saturated fats, which raises your bad cholesterol (LDL) and in general is unhealthy in terms of general nutrient content.

Fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the healthier choices. These fats tend to be more liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in olive oils, canola oil, avocados and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. We can also consume nuts, seeds such as walnuts and sunflowers seeds. Flax seed can be easily added to many dishes, smoothies and baked goods, however you should use ground flax to gain from its benefits.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, canola, peanut and safflower oil and sesame oil as well as avocados, peanut better

The American Heat Association recommends eating eight or more fruits and vegetables servings a day. Fresh is best, but if you consume canned fruits or vegetables be careful of the added sugars and sodium. Be sure to include a rainbow of colors when it comes to vegetables. Add veggies to a pizza or throw some into the mac n cheese and other casseroles. Try roasting vegetables as it brings out the natural sweetness in all vegetables and kids will like the sweet flavor. Use healthier cooking methods, steaming, blanching and grilling. Serve them with a dip or sauce on the side.

Lastly, take a look at sodium, in both the canned foods, and how much you use when you are cooking and at the table. Interestingly, I often hear people saying that sea salt has less sodium but Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D an American Heart Association spokeswoman says that sea salt often has as much sodium as table salt. One reason is that people tend to use more sea salt thinking it has less sodium in it. She also states that you are placing yourself at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, which raises your risk of heart disease.” When consuming too much sodium.

Words to look for when reading food labels that will indicate where the salt can be identified: sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda and including sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, monosodium glutamate [MSG] and sodium benzoate

Once you start to recognize these terms, you’ll see that there is sodium in many foods – even those that don’t taste very salty.