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February is American Heart Month!Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in America? Around 29 percent of the U.S. population has some form of cardiovascular disease, including diagnoses like congestive heart failure (CHF), high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels. In addition, stroke accounted for an average of 1 of every 20 deaths in the U.S. in 2017. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle which includes maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, proper stress management and a heart-healthy diet can lower your risk for heart disease or help your current heart disease from worsening.

Tori Erickson RD Mayo

Tori Erickson

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower heart disease risk. This diet is termed such because heart disease has been found to be less common in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers believe the diet of people living in this region is a key to their heart health.

The following are components of the Mediterranean diet. See what heart healthy diet choices you are already making and set a goal to include a few more in your lifestyle!

  • Choose two or more servings of both fresh fruits and vegetables per day. A serving is 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup cooked and 1 whole piece of fruit or a cup of fresh fruit. Look for brightly colored options like kale, Brussels sprouts, beets, bell peppers, berries, cherries, and plums.
  • Eat three or more servings of fish (3-5 ounces) or shellfish (6-7 ounces) per week. Good choices of fish include salmon or tuna and shellfish like shrimp. Choose white meats like chicken and turkey if you eat meat.
  • Eat three or more servings (½ cup cooked) of beans or legumes per week. Good choices of beans include black, lima, soy or navy beans.
  • Opt for 100% whole grain breads. Eat one or more servings (¼ cup) of raw/unsalted nuts and seeds per week.
  • Use olive oil in place of butter or margarine. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats which can help reduce your LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Eat less—or skip entirely— red meat and processed meats like hamburgers, sausages, and lunch meats.
  • Limit your intake of high fat and high sugar pastries, cakes, and cookies. Also limit your intake of high-fat dairy products and avoid sweetened and diet carbonated beverages.
  • Finally, relax and enjoy cooking and eating meals with family and friends!

Dilly salmon packets with asparagus

Serves: 4

Serving size: 1 (6 oz.) salmon fillet and 4 oz. asparagus


4 (6 oz.) salmon fillets

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ cup chopped fresh dill (Or 1½ tablespoons dried)

8 orange slices

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed

Aluminum foil

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425. Coat four (12-inch-square) pieces of foil with cooking spray. Place 1 fillet in center of each piece. Drizzle fillet with olive oil and sprinkle with dill. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired and top with two orange slices. Bring edges of foil up around fillets to form a packet. Place packets sheet baking sheet seam side up. Bake for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine asparagus and remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Spread on separate baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 425º F.

To serve: divide asparagus among four plates, top asparagus with salmon, and squeeze orange slices evenly over plate.

Nutrition information (per serving): Calories 411, total fat 23 g, cholesterol 91 mg, sodium 205 mg, carbohydrate 11 g, fiber 3 g, protein 39 g

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Tori Erickson is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.


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