Valentine’s Day is here, and it just so happens that it falls in February,
which is also Heart Health Month.
How well do you know your heart? It’s a worthwhile muscle to get to know. It not only keeps you alive, it works really hard in doing so. According to the Cleveland Clinic, every minute your heart pumps approximately five to six gallons of blood across a network of arteries, veins and capillaries more than 60,000 miles long. That’s long enough to go around the globe twice. To boot, the average heart beats 60 to 100 times a day according to the American Heart Association (AHA). If you do the calculations, your heart beats approximately 100,000 times and moves about 2,000 gallons of blood in adults each day. Wow, right!?
But just like a car, our hearts run into maintenance and mechanical issues, too. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. According to AHA, it accounts for nearly one in every four deaths in the United States.
Sure, certain aspects of heart disease are hereditary. But, there are also many preventative measures we can take to support a healthy heart. A key measure starts right in the grocery story, by choosing healthy foods. Consider these options to make sure you’re feeding your heart for top-notch performance.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating healthy is critical to keeping cholesterol and blood pressure in check. Although cholesterol levels can creep up with age, what we eat and our weight can affect our cholesterol levels. Key to managing cholesterol and heart health is eating enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults consume 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily.
- Up your Antioxidants. Leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, avocados, bell peppers, broccoli, green tea, tomatoes are all rich in antioxidants that help to fight free radicals in the body and therefore fend off pathways to illness, such as heart disease.
- Focus on Fiber. Consider oatmeal and other whole grains, vegetables and leafy greens, fruits, nuts and seeds (such as flax seeds). Foods high in dietary fiber have been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
- Pick potassium and magnesium. Your body needs both potassium and magnesium to help your heart and other muscles work properly. In particular, magnesium helps to maintain a steady heart beat and keep blood sugar in check. Potassium can help lower cholesterol and decrease the hardening of arteries. Leafy greens, potatoes and tomatoes are rich in heart-healthy potassium. Dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, and legumes offer up magnesium.
- Eat more fatty fish. Salmon, sardines, even lobster, fatty fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat) as well as plaque build-up in the arteries. Experts recommend eating fatty fish at least twice a week. Foods such as walnuts and flax seeds have also been shown to contain the Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Get nutty. Almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, walnuts—nuts contain Vitamin E, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol.
- Choose healthy fats. Not all fats are created equally. For your heart, focus on monounsaturated fats—the good fats—found in foods such as olives, olive oil and avocados. Healthy fats are thought to help lower cholesterol, raise good HDL cholesterol and decrease blood sugar levels. You should still avoid saturated or trans fats.
- Watch your sodium intake. To maintain level blood pressure, be sure to watch your sodium intake.
- Control your blood sugar. High sugar intake can contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both contributors to heart disease. Cut back on junk food, soda and your overall sugar intake and eat more monounsaturated fats as well as legumes, both of which have been associated with helping to control blood sugar levels. Studies have shown drinking one can of soda on average a day, can increase your risk of heart attack by 20 percent.
- Eat more dark chocolate. Okay the caveat here is that we are talking about dark chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa. So if you are a milk chocolate lover you’ll have to rethink your ways. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which act like antioxidants, and are thought to help fend off inflammation and help with clotting and blood pressure.
Of course, we know chocolate is on your list—dark chocolate if you truly want to reap its heart-health benefits. But what other heart-healthy foods can you serve and still keep things exciting? We have a few you may not have thought of. Surf & Turf for instance. Seriously, we are recommending lobster and filet mignon for your heart. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in lobster, have been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat) as well as plaque build-up in the arteries. If your filet mignon is organic or grass-fed then it, too, will have a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids than other meats. Both are great sources of protein, which supports the health of your blood. Mix your Surf & Turf with a side of veggies and our Vibrant Heart Salad and whether you’re eating with friends, family or a significant other this is a meal that will show your heart how much you love it.