DID YOU KNOW?!
FEBRUARY IS HEART HEALTH MONTH!
SWEET POTATOES AND CARROTS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEART!
When I think of February, I think: black history month, the end of winter, hearts, love, savory soup & chili dishes, friendship, wine, and being warm & cozy. What do you think about?
It never occurred to me that February was heart health month but it doesn’t surprise me. February is cold so we tend to exercise less (unfortunately, for many of us our New Year’s resolutions have hit a snag). February is the Super Bowl and award season (Academy awards to name one) and many of us celebrate with fast and/or bad food (cookies, crackers, dips …. processed foods). And February 14th is Valentine’s Day and with that comes flowers, chocolate and sugar. Food plays such a pivotal role in our health but many of us, me included till now, rarely think about what we eat or connect what we eat to our health. And our youth hides the ailments of age.
Food has always been essential but what I eat and how I eat has not. How about you? What is your experience with food and health?
Over the last few years my focus on food has changed and with it my health. Food is exciting and yummy and diverse. My health never better, the aches and pains I associated with sedentary living (adult … work … computer …) actually were tied directly to my diet. Exercise helps, don’t get me wrong, but diet, what we nourish our bodies with, is so much more important; and with time and as we’ve moved from outside to inside, our diets suffered as our real connection to food suffered.
I recently volunteered at a local organic farm and loved the feel of the earth and the simplicity of the connection. I loved getting dirty. It was calming and healing. The people I was surrounded by were warm, funny, diverse, educated, and knowing. Each person’s journey was different and yet, we all, at some point, realized the importance of food, nature and health. Some of us were young and some of us older but all of us had a common interest, to be still and in peace for the moments we farmed. Sounds strange, I know, but this was an industrial farm, this was an urban farm, in the middle of a city and it was beautiful.
Farming isn’t for everyone but eating good, organic wholesome food should be a priority. We owe it to ourselves.
While farming, I harvested the swiss chard – the colors were so vibrant and the taste delish. I was super excited when I was able to take with me some of the food I harvested. Stay tuned for a swiss chard recipe ☺!
My challenge to you: to run barefoot, to feel the earth with your fingertips, to take moments outside and close your eyes, to breathe the air and feel the energy. You might not notice anything at first but try it for 7 days, 14 days – just 5 mins or so – and perhaps journal your experience because that can help make connections we lose in our busy lives. With each outside moment, moments without distraction, you’ll find calm.
DID YOU KNOW?! 1 in 4 American deaths is because of heart disease. Or that 735,000 Americans have heart attacks each year.
DID YOU KNOW?! Fruits and vegetables helps your overall heart health.
“Fruits and vegetables are a key part of a heart-healthy diet. Eating fruits and vegetables doesn’t cancel out other unhealthy habits. Rather, eating plenty of fruits and veggies as part of a well-balanced diet can go a long way in improving cardiovascular and overall health.
DID YOU KNOW?! Local seasonal February vegetables – carrots and sweet potatoes – can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
DID YOU KNOW?! “Certain foods can influence blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.”
Some examples of heart health foods:
Leafy Greens – “leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are well-known for their wealth of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In particular, they’re a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect your arteries and promote proper blood clotting. They’re also high in dietary nitrates, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease arterial stiffness and improve the function of cells lining the blood vessels.”
Avocados – “avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.
One study looked at the effects of three cholesterol-lowering diets in 45 overweight and obese people, with one of the test groups consuming one avocado per day. The avocado group experienced reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol, including lower levels of small, dense LDL cholesterol, which are believed to significantly raise the risk of heart disease. Another study including 17,567 people showed that those who ate avocados regularly were half as likely to have metabolic syndrome.
Avocados are also rich in potassium, a nutrient that’s essential to heart health. In fact, just one avocado supplies 975 milligrams of potassium, or about 28% of the amount that you need in a day.”
Dark Chocolate – “is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health. Interestingly, several studies have associated eating chocolate with a lower risk of heart disease.
One large study showed that those who ate chocolate at least five times per week had a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease than non-chocolate eaters. Another study found that eating chocolate at least twice per week was associated with a 32% lower risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries.
Keep in mind that these studies show an association but don’t necessarily account for other factors that may be involved. Additionally, chocolate can be high in sugar and calories, which can negate many of its health-promoting properties.
Be sure to pick a high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70%, and moderate your intake to make the most of its heart-healthy benefits.” For a guide on selecting dark chocolate check out: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dark-chocolate-buyers-guide.
DID YOU KNOW?! Wine is good for your heart.
“A 4-ounce glass of red wine can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels.”
“HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is also called “good” cholesterol. HDL protects against heart disease by taking the bad cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. Your HDL cholesterol number is:
- Low (and considered a risk factor) if it is less than 40.
- Good (and able to help lower your risk of heart disease) if it is 60 or more.”
DID YOU KNOW?!
“A handful of healthy nuts, such as walnuts, will satisfy your hunger and help your heart.
Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, are chock full of heart- healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber.
Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and phytoestogens to boost heart health.
Oatmeal is a comfort-food nutrient powerhouse.
Dark beans, such as kidney or black beans, are high in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and other good stuff.”
For more information on heart healthy foods, check out:
What was most unexpected in the list of heart health foods? For me, it was chocolate and wine (in moderation and with wine there are other risks such as glyphosate) but also the variety of heart healthy foods. I was also surprised at how many of the heart healthy foods I eat (oatmeal, beans, flaxseeds ….). I love chili and often make different varieties some that include kale and seeds. One of my favorite recipes is a five bean and quinoa with butternut squash. If interested, message me for the recipe in the comments.
For other chili recipes check out:
I’d love to hear about your favorite chili recipes.
Until next time, happy eating!
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566462/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3321262/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4288952/
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23282226 and https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1843/2