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February is National Heart Month. It may sound like something to celebrate, but it’s actually raising awareness for one of the biggest killers in the developed world. In the UK, coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in people under 75, but there are ways to reduce the chance that you will get some form of it.

It may sound obvious, but the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke is greatly increased by being overweight.  Being overweight can also increase your risk of type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. The fact that two-thirds of all adults in the UK are overweight or obese simply means that two-thirds of the UK population are at a high risk of coronary heart disease. Just as frightening is that one-third of children are also already overweight, so there’s an even greater crisis on the horizon. Hence the need for a month of awareness!

Losing weight reduces the strain on your body and heart. The amount of calories an individual needs varies depending on age, gender and amount of activity they do, but the simple idea is that when you consume too many calories you gain weight, and when you consume too few you lose weight. Making small changes to your diet and the way you cook can have a big impact on the amount of calories you consume, without you even realising.

Jamie and I often chat about small changes to recipes that don’t compromise flavour but reduce the fat and calorie content. It’s simpler than it sounds and there are loads of ways you can try it out during National Heart Month.

Mostly it involves using a healthier cooking method such as grilling or steaming, or swapping an ingredient for a lower-fat alternative.  It’s really important to keep an eye on how much fat you have in your diet. When making dips and sauces to accompany your midweek meal, try using low-fat or fat-free yoghurt instead of sour cream or crème fraiche, as they’re much lower in fat.  Try using lower-fat cheeses such as feta or goat’s cheese in salads and to finish off dishes. As a rule, you should always try to use olive oil instead of butter in cooking, because it’s lower in saturated fat. It can even be done in baking, like in Jamie’s butternut squash muffins.

Keeping the health drive going into February is really tricky, but making small changes adds up. We have lots of healthy recipes on the site, and all our recipes give you nutritional information so you can make the right choices.

Food Team

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