Getting to the heart of the matter!
5 simply delicious ways to nourish your heart:
February ushers in National heart health month. If your New year’s resolutions are beginning to fade as January turns to February, do not despair. We have some simple, nutrition hacks that will help you stay on your plan to eat healthy without breaking the bank (or slaving over a hot stove)!
- Arm with Antioxidants: When you are looking to boost heart health, start at home. Reach for those brightly colored fruits on your kitchen counter, the vibrant vegetables in your refrigerator, that dark chocolate you have stashed away in your cabinet, the turmeric in your spice drawer or that soothing green tea in your pantry. You might notice that a common denominator in all these foods are their unmistakable, brilliant colors, marking the presence of substances called antioxidants with substantial disease fighting potential.
The war within: Our bodies are constantly bombarded as it were, with substances called free radicals, that lead to oxidative stress and inflammation, the basis of all chronic disease. Antioxidants are like the marines, always standing at bay, ready to fight off the little villains called free radicals. Hence you want to build a strong arsenal of antioxidants from brightly colored fruits and veggies to combat free radicals and prevent disease. Simple, but oh so powerful!!
- Fibrous facts: Fiber could be described as the (incredible!), edible part of the plant food that you cannot digest. Ironically, it is just as important as the part that you can! This is because soluble fiber in foods forms a gel when it dissolves in digestive fluids, adheres to cholesterol and toxins, carrying them out of your body for good. A natural detoxifier, fiber acts like a sponge, mopping up that nasty, artery clogging cholesterol that can lead to heart disease.
- The scoop on fat: Not all fats are created equal. Emphasize healthy, plant-based fats from whole plant foods. Use an avocado spread instead of mayonnaise in that sandwich, and the next time you get that all too familiar snack attack at 3 pm, reach for a handful of crunchy, unsalted almonds with heart healthy, monounsaturated fats instead of the highly processed pretzels. So also, the fat in fish have omega-3 fatty acids that are known to reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease including your heart.
- Fast, white, and processed: While the media has a tendency to demonize certain nutrients and idolize others, when it comes to fast, white and processed carbs, (think bagels, pretzels, white rice, white pasta, rolls, the list goes on),.. less is indeed more! In these foods, the original whole grain has been processed to the point where all the vital nutrients are lost along with the all-important fiber. The resulting refined food is all but the pale shadow of the healthful whole grains our ancient ancestors used to consume. The body breaks down these carbs rapidly to sugar, causing a sugar spike, release of insulin, a hormone that overzealously prompts fat storage, weight gain, and the rest is history.
- The yummiest of them all: Dark chocolate, ofcourse! With valentine’s day around the corner, if you have had visons of bon bons dancing in your head, you can rejoice. We now know that dark chocolate (with minimally 70% cocoa) has powerful antioxidants called flavanols that have substantial heart healthy benefits. Emerging evidence shows that dark chocolate has favorable effects on blood pressure, cholesterol and can reduce clots forming in your arteries that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Furthermore, it has the highest flavanol content among commonly consumed foods with flavanols-even higher than red wine! Sweet! A word of caution: milk chocolate has a much lower flavanol content and comes packaged with artery clogging saturated fat that we would want to avoid.
Heart-healthy truth: Following sound nutritional advice does not have to be complicated. The foods noted here are most likely foods you already have in your kitchen cabinet. Remember brightly colored, plant-based foods have powerful antioxidants, but most importantly are also a delicious way of achieving your health-related goals, and the fiber in them keeps you full to boot. So we hope you take these tips to heart, dig in and eat to your heart’s content!