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Get Your Plate in Shape During National Nutrition Month

Category: Patient Stories
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Good nutrition, along with regular exercise and adequate sleep, is a key factor in reducing heart disease. So it makes perfect sense that National Nutrition Month takes place in March, right on the heels of February's American Heart Month. The national nutrition education and information campaign is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a valuable and credible source of scientifically-based information about food and nutrition.

"A balanced, healthy diet is one that's low in saturated fats, sodium and sugar, and high in fruits, vegetables, fish and fiber," says Paula Bursch, RD, LD, registered and licensed dietitian and supervisor of Aspirus St. Luke's Clinical Nutrition and Diabetes Care. "In other words, what's good for our health is generally good for our hearts."

Tools and Resources

One of Bursch's favorite online resources for basic nutrition information is The site offers tips on reading food labels, guides to portion control, tools to help busy families prepare healthy meals on a budget, and the following heart-healthy grocery list:

  • Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against inflammation and prevent clots.
  • Olive oil reduces "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, and as a monosaturated fat, has been shown to have heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Oats are a great source of soluble fiber and help reduce LDL cholesterol.
  • Apples contain fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients or phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants to reduce LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
  • Almonds provide the most potent form of vitamin E, are a significant source of protein, and are primarily a monounsaturated fat.
  • Red wine contains a powerful antioxidant shown to have heart-healthy benefits.
  • Whole grains (such as whole wheat, graham flour, oatmeal, whole oats, brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain corn, popcorn, whole-grain barley, whole wheat bulgur and whole rye) provide vitamins and fiber.
  • Green leafy vegetables are rich in folate and vitamin E, and help reduce levels of homocysteine, which has been shown to increase cardiovascular disease and stroke.
  • Tomatoes are packed with vitamins and lycopene, which may lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Soy protein is an excellent non-meat alternative and may offer heart-disease-lowering properties.

If you are interested in meeting with a Aspirus St. Luke's registered dietitian, ask your doctor about getting a referral.