New Year, New You! Here are some new ideas and ways to boost your heart health in 2016

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I am Jessica Meyers Altman, Founder of the food blog www.GardenFreshFoodie.com. I’m a certified plant-based chef, and have a certification in plant-based nutrition. I am a passionate educator, and have taught science, community gardening, and food education for the last 17 years.  “Life is why” I have chosen to switch to a plant-based diet, as well as my family. This is exciting for me for many reasons. By doing so, my husband’s cholesterol level dropped 40 points. He has more energy. His sinus issues have gotten much better, and he has trimmed down. I truly believe in a plant-based diet, one centered on plants. As a person with an autoimmune condition, switching to a plant-based diet has truly helped me.

Many Americans suffering from heart disease, as well as diabetes, have not heard how plants can heal. Places around the world where heart disease and diabetes are absent, are places where the dominant foods are plant-based foods.
Foods like:
• Grains
• Legumes, lentils
• Vegetables
• Fruit
Fat places a large part in this equation as well. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a surgeon from the Cleveland Clinic and author of “How To Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease”, conducted a study where participants consumed a plant-based diet, where fat was less than 11% of the diet. He worked with participants who had severe heart disease, and found that his patients stopped the progression of their disease, and even reversed it. This is unheard of through conventional treatments of bypasses, angioplasty, and statins. He feels the goal for cholesterol should be to maintain total serum cholesterol < 150 mg/dl Maintain LDL serum cholesterol < 80 mg/dl. To do this, he suggests one should avoid the following:

oil
nuts
avocado
all meats (including fish)
dairy

These changes can bring forth positive change in improving heart disease. Most Americans are used to a diet rich in saturated fats, meats, dairy, oils, and sugars. The diet we follow is referred to as SAD (standard American diet). But YOU can make positive change happen without going to extremes.

To start on a healthier path, start eating more plant-based meals. Try swapping a plant-based meal for a traditional meat meal each day. The only side-effect of eating more plants is increased health. You will naturally lose weight, and your cholesterol will drop as well, as plants don’t contain cholesterol. Win-win! Plants are high in fiber, packed with anti-inflammatory properties, and help combat both heart disease and diabetes.

How can you make this happen? I ask you to give a whole-food, plant-based diet a try for 30-60 days and see how you feel. Really commit to it. I think that after a few weeks, you will notice amazing changes. As always, consult your doctor before making any sweeping changes. For example, if you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, your insulin levels will need to be altered, as your blood sugar will drop significantly.

My hope is that you start eating more veggies and plant-based foods today! A change in lifestyle can be overwhelming, but there are wonderful resources online. My plant-based food blog (www.gardenfreshfoodie.com) offers a listing of books, websites, and movie references too, to help you get started.

Ways to be successful:

-Start your day off with oatmeal (not the packaged stuff, it takes only 10 minutes to cook, or can make overnight oats)-it’s high in fiber and satisfying.
-Have a prep day. Pre-chop fruits and veggies so that they’re ready to go.
-Clean out that pantry and ditch the processed snacks lurking to pull you off track.
-Search for menu items that are steamed or raw. -Choose vinegar in place of salad dressings when out. Most restaurants will work with you.
-Eat beans! Most Americans don’t eat beans. Strive for 1/2 cup-1 cup a day. Lentils are the fastest legumes to cook (10 minutes).
-Have quick homemade soups, prepared without oils, on hand in the freezer for fast meals.
-Buy pre-cut produce if you don’t like to chop. If it’s not cut up, most of us won’t eat it.
-Eat LOTS of greens! Greens are packed with calcium, fiber, protein, and help to boost your endothelial health (the lining of your arteries).
-Bring food to parties that you can eat, or eat beforehand. My trick – I always bring food so I don’t feel left out.

To get started, try one of these recipes. Plants are beautiful and taste great!
Let’s raise a glass of water to good health in the New Year!
Before I go, I’d love to hear your #LifeisWhy story! Share it with us today.
All the best –
Jessica

Twitter: @gardenfreshfood

Facebook.com/gardenfreshfoodie

Instagram.com/gardenfreshfoodie

 

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