With February well underway and Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I am sure everyone has been seeing lots of “hearts” around. In case you were not aware, February is also Heart Health Month, where the focus is on the most important hearts in the world – OURS! While keeping an active lifestyle with lots of aerobic movement and not smoking are among the top ways we can keep our hearts in tip-top shape, here are my top food suggestions to maintain heart health….all year long (as it should be!). Every one of all ages should try to be getting as many of these types of food into their diets (with the exception of food allergies, of course) to keep the most important muscle in our body ticking strong.
My personal recommendations of types of nutrients to really focus on are:
ANTIOXIDANTS – these are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (like super foods) that protect against and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals in the body (usually caused by toxins, aging, and disease). Some examples of common antioxidants are:
- beta-carotene (which gets converted to Vitamin A)
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
- orange-colored fruits and vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, orange citrus fruits, apricots, squash, cantaloupe, mangoes, etc.
- citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, strawberries, kiwi fruit, pomegranate
B – VITAMINS – folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 all play a huge role in heart health (in addition to boosting energy levels!).
- dark, leafy greens
FIBER – plays an important role in heart health by maintaining blood sugar levels, moving waste and toxins out of the body (in addition to absorbing toxins), and helping to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, which are linked to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.
- chia seeds
- ground flaxseeds
OMEGA-3s and HEALTHY FATS – as many of us now know, there are “healthy” fats (i.e. Omega-3s) and “unhealthy fats” (i.e. trans-fats). Omega-3s are especially important because they are considered essential to the human body, meaning that we cannot produce them on our own – we need to obtain them from food. Omega-3s are linked to better immunity, decreasing inflammation in the body, improving mood and hormone balance, and reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- An easy rule-of-thumb to follow is usually plant-based fats are regarded as healthier choices than animal fats (due to the type of saturated fat content). Examples are:
- olive oil, grapeseed oil, purified fish oil, flaxseed oil
- nuts like almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts
- seeds like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds
- avocados and coconuts
- While fish like salmon are normally considered healthy due to their high Omega-3 content, it’s the concern over heavy metals, farming practices, and pollutants now present in many fish species that has people concerned over how safe it is to eat often.
Here’s an easy list of other heart-healthy foods to try and get as much of as possible and why:
– BERRIES: Beta-carotene, vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.
– Spinach: B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
– Bananas: potassium for healthy blood pressure regulation.
– Broccoli: Beta-carotene; Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
– Red bell peppers: Beta-carotene; B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
– Asparagus: Beta-carotene; B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.
– Papaya: Beta-carotene; Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
– Black or Kidney Beans: B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.
– Almonds: Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber
– Walnuts: Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber.
–chia seeds: packed with Omega-3s, fiber, protein, and minerals.
–spirulina and chlorella: these are supplements of green-algae superfoods that you can take to add super anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, protein, and blood-cleansing goodness to your life. Some people like adding spirulina powder to smoothies, shakes, or raw cookie/dessert recipes. If the taste is too drastic for you, Hawaiian Pacifica brand for a super easy tablet to swallow with your vitamins to get this added benefit. Kids can take it, too!
–turmeric: this is a spice native to India that has been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It’s considered a superfood that millions revere and add to their cooking daily. You can add this spice as cumin, but I personally take a daily liquid form of curcumin/turmeric concentrate to help keep inflammation down.
–OMEGA-3 supplements: even if you eat fish, I find taking a daily purified fish oil supplement (i.e. Nordic Naturals) is extremely beneficial, including for children.
–Vitamin D3: be sure to take a supplement to help keep your heart healthy. Most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, and although sunlight exposure is the best way to obtain Vitamin D3, it’s hard for many people who live in colder climates or work indoors. 15 minutes a day of sun exposure sans-sunscreen will give you 10,000IU of the vitamin. Not only will it help boost heart health, but it cuts back on inflammation and it boost immunity and bone health. Although the FDA says 400 IUs a day is the recommended dose, researchers and doctors are now realizing that doses upwards around 5000 IU a day is optimal…and safe. Be sure to take with fat, as it is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching, LLC. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods, products, and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: email@example.com. Follow Megan on Twitter and like her on Facebook