COLUMN: Small changes can have a big impact on heart health

COLUMN: Small changes can have a big impact on heart health

Local dietitian provides ‘nutritious and delicious’ ways to stay healthy during Hypertension Awareness Month

Did you know that seven-and-a-half million people in Canada, about one in five adults, live with hypertension?

Unfortunately, hypertension — also known as high blood pressure — is the most common heart health issue that often goes undetected. This Hypertension Awareness Month, let’s take the opportunity to reflect on our own heart health and make small lifestyle changes to improve our overall heart health. Here are some nutritious and delicious ways to get started.

Back to the basics

When it comes to managing heart health, maintaining a balanced diet is key. But as we know, planning the perfect meal lineup can be overwhelming. Starting with the basics can be helpful, and imagining balancing your plates like building blocks can help make it less daunting. For example, thinking about what your meal already includes and what you’d like to add as opposed to what you’d like to remove will position nutrition in a more positive light. Some great resources to have in your back pocket are Canada’s Food Guide and Oldways.

The benefits of colorful foods

They say you eat with your eyes first. Colorful foods, such as blueberries, beets, squash, and artichokes, contain antioxidants, which have been known for offering anti-inflammatory properties and reducing the risk for chronic diseases. Next time you’re making a salad or pasta, spice it up with a variety of dark, rich-colored foods (like red and green) to capitalize on antioxidants.

The more you know about fats

According to research, trans fats and saturated fats have been linked to heart disease, so limiting your intake of these fats can help reduce your risk. Many of these fats can be found in animal products, such as meat and high-fat dairy, and processed foods, such as baked goods. Making simple changes, like swapping butter for plant-based oils rich in unsaturated fats, like olive oil and avocado oil, can make a difference.

It’s never too late to start prioritizing your heart health. As your local Orillia registered dietitian at Zehrs, I provide a range of services, such as virtual or in-store one-on-one consultations, store tours, and recipe ideas. To learn more, book a 15-minute free discovery call with me at

Citrus and beet salad

Spring into spring with this colorful salad. Between the beets, spinach, and grapefruit, this salad is brimming with heart-healthy antioxidants.


  • 1 small red ruby ​​grapefruit, peeled
  • 1 PC Organics Navel Orange
  • 16 No Name Sliced ​​Beets, drained
  • 4 cups PC Organics Baby Spinach
  • 1/4 cup PC Blue Menu Dressing — Lemon Poppy Seed


  1. Holding grapefruit on its side on a cutting board, cut into eight slices. Repeat with orange, cutting into eight thin slices. Using two slices of orange, two slices of grapefruit and four slices of beets for each of four salad plates, arrange the slices on plates in a large circle, slightly overlapping them and alternating beets with citrus.
  2. Gently toss spinach with two tbsp (25 mL) of the dressing. Mound one-quarter onto the center of each plate on top of the beets and citrus. Drizzle remaining two tbsp (25 mL) dressing over the fruit. Serve immediately, garnished with red onions if desired.

Lisa Ciotoli is a registered dietitian at Zehrs in Orillia.