Do What’s Best for Your Heart This American Heart Month by Choosing Chicken
February is American Heart Month (AHM), a time for increased awareness about heart disease – the number one killer of Americans. In most cases, heart disease is preventable when you adopt a healthier lifestyle. What does that include? Making the heart-healthy decision to choose chicken.
Here’s some good news – America’s favorite low-fat, low-sodium and low cholesterol protein from chicken fits into a heart-healthy diet. Many studies have found that including lean chicken as part of your eating pattern is linked with less risk of heart disease. One recent study even found that after looking at the health information of over 1.4 million people who were followed for 30 years, no link between eating poultry, such as chicken, and an increased risk of coronary heart disease was found.
The American Heart Association (AHA) even has these heart-healthy recommendations and tips for how you can enjoy chicken:
- Choose nonfried poultry (chicken) without the skin, no more than 5.5 ounces, cooked, per day (1/2 of a chicken breast or a chicken leg with thigh [without skin]).
- Choose salt-free seasonings such as spices, herbs and other flavorings in cooking and at the table.
- Slice up leftover chicken for sandwiches at lunch.
- Make a chicken salad with leftover baked or roasted chicken.
- Grill, bake or microwave chicken breasts for dinner. Remove skin before cooking.
There are nearly 40 heart-healthy diets to choose from that have been ranked by a panel of health experts for U.S. News & World Report – but not all are created equal. Taking first place in the best heart-healthy diets is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The DASH diet ups fruits and vegetables while limiting sodium. The good news is that this diet becomes even more delicious and easy to follow because chicken is one lean protein option you can eat!
Tied for first place with the DASH diet is the Mediterranean diet, which is inspired by the flavors and traditional dishes of the Mediterranean region. This eating pattern focuses on daily consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and lean proteins like chicken. The diet is so effective at reducing the risk of heart disease that it’s also recommended by the AHA.
Why is chicken a super-star protein option in the top two heart-healthy diets?
Because cardiovascular health is all about making small, simple changes to your overall eating pattern to help you and your family stay healthy. That includes replacing certain types of fats (like saturated fats or trans fats) with sources of healthier fats (like unsaturated fats). In general, red meats (beef, pork and lamb) have more saturated (bad) fat than chicken, and chicken does provide unsaturated fat.
But what really matters is that chicken is affordable, delicious and versatile. Chicken pairs well with almost any vegetable (Try this Pan Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts), bean (We love this Tomato Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lima Bean Puree) fruit (Grilled Chicken and Peach Kabobs) and more!
Need more heart-healthy recipe inspiration? You can find a list of great AHA-approved chicken-based heart-healthy dishes here to keep chicken on your mind all AHM long and beyond.