Move over, Chipotle! To help celebrate National Heart Month, our friend Chelsea from @chelsealeblancrdn, has shared some great health benefits of incorporating plant-based meals to support a heart-healthy lifestyle. It’s as easy as adding familiar favorites to your weekly meals using nutrient-rich ingredients. Her vegetarian Burrito Bowl offers the flavors you know and love, while maximizing their health benefits.

Did you know that February is National Heart month? Sadly, heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. It’s a great time to check in and ensure we are taking care of our hearts! The good news is there are simple steps we can take to lower our risk for heart disease.

As a Registered Dietitian, I speak with clients all the time about simple swaps that can make meals more heart-healthy. I often recommend incorporating more plant-based meals that are full of healthy, nutrient-rich ingredients.

One way I like to add heart-friendly ingredients that are packed with flavor is to create different types of bowls for either lunch or dinner, like this vegetarian Burrito Bowl. You can easily layer your favorite plant-based proteins, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats to make a complete meal. Bowls can include a ton of fresh and easy-to-find ingredients that make both the heart and belly happy. Greenhouse grown Tomatoes are super high in Lycopene which has been associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease. And since they are available year-round, you never have to sacrifice having fresh components for your meals.

Benefits of Plant-Based Meals –

One of my favorite tips is to try to make at least one meal a day plant-based since eating more fruits and vegetables has been shown to have all kinds of heart-healthy benefits.

Lower cholesterol levels: Plant-based diets are high in fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals that have been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.

Reduce inflammation: Inflammation is a significant contributor to heart disease, and plant-based diets have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.

Improve blood pressure: A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been shown to reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Antioxidant protection: Plant-based foods are rich in antioxidants, which help protect the heart and blood vessels from damage.

How to Build a Heart-Healthy Burrito Bowl –

A burrito bowl is really a fun name for a deconstructed burrito. You take all of the yummy burrito fillings, like fresh veggies, protein, beans, lettuce, rice, corn, salsa, sour cream, cheese, etc., and serve it in a bowl.

You may be wondering can a burrito, even one served in a bowl really be healthy. The answer is YES! Especially when they are loaded with plant-based nutrients like these! My Burrito Bowl recipe includes cauliflower rice, black beans, corn, red onions, avocados, lime juice, cilantro, and my favorite Sangria® Medley Tomatoes from Pure Flavor®. These tomatoes are not only super flavorful but they also contain heart-healthy nutrients like fiber, potassium, and iron.

I feel like potassium doesn’t get enough “airtime” regarding our heart health. Foods that are rich in potassium are important in managing high blood pressure since potassium helps lessens the effects of sodium. Potassium helps the kidneys excrete excess sodium in our body instead of retaining it. So basically, the more potassium you eat, the more sodium your body can release when you use the restroom. The American Heart Association recommends 4700 mg of potassium a day. One serving of these tasty tomatoes has 500 mg of potassium or 10% of your daily needs! Avocados, beans, and yogurt are also great sources of potassium, making this one potassium-packed bowl!

Overall, incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet can effectively improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Start with little, manageable steps to start. So maybe instead of having bacon and eggs for breakfast, you opt for oatmeal, fruit, and nuts. Or maybe for dinner, you trade out the chicken in your stir fry for some tofu or edamame. Pack easy-to-eat snacking tomatoes, Aurora Bites Mini Sweet Peppers, or Uno Bites™ Nano Cucumbers for when you are out on the go. No matter what, by making small changes like these, your heart will be happy and healthy!

~ Chelsea