GUEST COLUMN: Local dietitian offers heart-healthy tips

Via Peters

May is Hypertension Awareness Month — a perfect time to share a few tips on improving heart health.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the most common heart health issue that often goes undetected. Eating a heart-healthy diet — in addition to exercise and regular blood-pressure monitoring — can help lower your blood pressure and lower your chances of heart-related issues such as a stroke or heart attack.

With so much nutrition information available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Here are a few of my favourite nutrition tips for a heart-healthy diet.

Boost your fibre

Fibre can be divided into subcategories: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, acting like a gel, and can help lower cholesterol and reduce fat absorption. Good sources of soluble fibre include oat bran, barley, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) and chia or flax seeds. Insoluble fibre is found in foods like nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and helps keep us regular by promoting a healthy digestive system.

While it’s important to include both forms of fibre in our diet, soluble fibre is highly recommended because of its heart-health benefits. Canadians should aim for 10 grams of soluble fibre per day.

Understand fats

Not all fats increase your risk of heart disease. There are “good” fats that can help manage cholesterol. Fat can be broken into three main categories: trans, saturated and unsaturated. Canada’s Food Guide recommends limiting your intake of trans and saturated fats, as research has shown excess consumption of these fats is linked to heart disease. However, unsaturated fats are a good option, as they can help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol.

Great sources of unsaturated fats include nuts and seeds, avocados, plant-based oils and fatty fish. The next time you’re whipping up a meal that requires butter, try substituting it for oils rich in unsaturated fats like olive, avocado or canola.

Add heart-healthy foods

When it comes to making changes to your diet, instead of focusing on what should be removed or minimized, look at what you can add. Increasing your intake of foods with more heart-healthy nutrients will naturally move your overall diet in a positive direction without making you feel you are depriving yourself of all your favourite foods.

A heart-healthy diet includes a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean proteins, and plant-based proteins. A simple way to start is by aiming for at least one plant-based meal in your weekly dinner lineup. Plant-based proteins are a great addition to a heart-healthy diet as they contain fibre, protein, and little to no saturated fats.

If you find yourself needing additional help eating for your heart, I am here to help. As your local registered dietitian at Zehrs Orillia, I can work with you one-on-one to develop a unique and easy-to-follow plan. To book a virtual appointment with me, go to

Vegan one-pan veggie noodles with cashew sauce


  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 package (340 g) PC Butternut Squash Veggie Noodles
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) PC Frozen Edamame
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) PC Plant-Based Original Cashew Dip
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) roasted unsalted cashews


  1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add veggie noodles and frozen edamame; cook 2 to 3 minutes, tossing and stirring often, or until noodles are tender-crisp and edamame is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. 
  2. Stir cashew dip with 2 tbsp water in small bowl until smooth. Gently stir into noodle mixture to coat. Sprinkle with cashews.

Brittany McMullan is a registered dietitian at Zehrs Orillia.

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