During February American Heart Month, the USA Rice Federation is helping consumers take charge of their heart health with U.S. rice. Heart disease is the No. 1 health problem in the United States today, according to the American Heart Association.

Many preventive strategies focus on lifestyle change, including diet, to manage heart health. Research shows that U.S.-grown rice is a nutrient-rich food that fits a heart-healthy diet.

USA Rice is conducting an educational campaign and promotional events aimed at publicizing the role rice in a heart-healthy diet. The campaign informs consumers, health professionals and the media about U.S. rice's heart-health benefits, including being low-fat, sodium, and cholesterol-free.

A social media promotion features healthy recipes and nutrition facts.

USA Rice also partnered with the Florida Department of Citrus to inform consumers of the heart health benefits of rice and 100 percent Florida orange juice. A “10 Days, 10 Ways to Love Your Heart with U.S. Rice and Florida Orange Juice” promotion features heart healthy recipes and nutrition facts through social media and a “Heart Healthy Reasons to Love U.S. Rice and Florida Orange Juice” backgrounder.

The promotion will run through Feb. 23.

Studies show the science behind heart-healthy rice. Research commissioned by the rice industry and published in theJournal of the American Dietetic AssociationandNutrition Todayshows that eating enriched white and whole grain brown rice helps improve overall diet and potentially reduces the risk for many chronic diseases. Compared with non-rice eaters, rice eaters are less likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome; they are more likely to have an overall better diet quality. Individuals who eat rice also eat more vegetables, meats,poultry, seafood and fiber, while consuming less added sugar and less total fat and saturated fat than non-rice eaters, all important factors for cardio-protection.

In 2008, USA Rice advocacy efforts resulted in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration extending the whole grain health claim to include brown rice. As a 100 percent whole grain food, rice joined the recognized ranks of healthful whole grains eligible to state the whole grain health claim on food labels. According to FDA, “Diets rich in whole grain foods, such as brown rice and other plant foods, and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.”

Rice partners well with other heart-healthy foods, such as beans, seafood, vegetables and fruits. And rice fits with theU.S. Dietary Guidelinesfor Americans/MyPlate grains recommendations of six 1-ounce servings of grains daily, with half the servings coming from whole grains, such as brown rice, and the other half from whole or enriched grains like enriched, fortified white rice. White rice is enriched in B vitamins and fortified with folic acid, which has been shown in studies to help maintain a healthy heart.

Promotional events such as February American Heart Month demonstrate the value of research findings in helping to communicate rice’s health benefits to consumers. Through past and upcoming research funded by The Rice Foundation, the U.S. rice industry is making an investment for the future.