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At the heart of healthy eating

While we’re focused on matters of the heart for Valentine’s Day, have you stopped to think about your heart health lately? Heart disease is one of Canada’s leading causes of death, and Hypertension Canada estimates that 7.5 million Canadians are living with hypertension, with millions more likely to be diagnosed.

The good news is that heart disease and stroke is preventable by adopting healthy habits, such as moving your body, refraining from smoking, introducing a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, omega 3s and fibre, while limiting sodium, sugar and saturated and trans fats. Taking medication as directed and limiting alcohol consumption, as well as regular blood pressure monitoring are also important steps.

This may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. Jacklyn Villeneuve, a Loblaws registered dietitian, provides a few tips to help you take control.

Look at your whole plate. When meal planning, using the whole plate method can help you to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs, while helping to maintain a healthy heart. Half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, while a quarter should be filled with a protein such as a chicken breast or legumes and the remaining quarter should include whole grains such as quinoa, bulgur, or brown rice.

Focus on fibre. Fibre slows the digestion and absorption of your foods and can help you manage cholesterol and blood glucose levels. You can get fibre from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, as well as nuts and seeds. Chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp hearts are all easy options for adding fibre to your diet. These seeds are similar in their nutritional benefits as they provide heart-healthy omega-3 fats, fibre and some protein. Although they are similar, they do have their own unique nutrient profiles so including a variety is key. You can sprinkle these seeds on cereals, yogurt and salads, and add them to smoothies or baked goods.

Monitoring is key. Registered dietitians at grocery stores may be able to work closely with pharmacists to take a 360-degree look at heart health. Services can include free blood pressure checks, help with smoking cessation or a heart-to-heart talk about meal planning. Find more information or book a free 15-minute consultation at

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