February is American Heart Health Month and a time of year to raise awareness about heart disease and prevention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, yet highly preventable. The ideal diet for heart health is one that is low in animal products, low in sugar and processed foods, and high in vegetables and other whole plant foods. In addition to regular exercise, making heart-healthy nutritional choices will help you live a long and healthy life. Below are eight heart-healthy foods to include in your diet.
Berries: Eating a variety of berries may prevent cardiovascular disease as this colorful fruit is high in antioxidants and polyphenols. Rich in vitamin C and fiber, berries such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries contain compounds that help lower blood pressure and LDL (the bad cholesterol!).
Avocado: This fruit has more potassium than a banana, which helps to lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that eating avocado can improve heart disease risk factors like cholesterol levels as well as blood triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood). Although a healthy fat, keep in mind that the serving size of an avocado is one-third, which is 123 calories.
Green Leafy Vegetables: Another reason to love spinach! Leafy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, romaine, and spinach contain vitamin K which helps with the synthesis of blood clotting and also slows calcium deposits in artery walls leading to a healthier heart.
Nuts and Seeds: Eating nuts, nut butter (peanut, almond), and seeds (think pumpkin, sesame, flax, and chia) have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of inflammation, and decrease insulin resistance. A little goes a long way as this heart-healthy food is rich in (good) fat, fiber, and protein, but high in calories.
Beans: Not only do beans have an array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but beans also contain phytochemicals that reduce inflammation and oxidative damage within the arterial walls (oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body).
Apples: Eating an apple a day is a natural way to prevent heart disease, as benefits include lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that prevents cholesterol absorption in your gut.
Tomatoes: As a source of the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes can lower inflammation in your body and prevent oxidative stress that contributes to heart disease. The nutritional value of a tomatoe is improved when cooked as it releases more lycopene, which has shown to improve heart health and blood pressure.
Dark Chocolate: Yes! Dark Chocolate is an antioxidant-rich food that helps reduce cardiovascular disease. The darker, the better, so look for varieties that contain at least 72% cocoa.
Quote of the week:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”~ Benjamin Franklin
Recipe of the Week: Cauliflower “Fried Rice”
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 5 scallions, chopped, whites and greens separated
- 1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 1 large Egg
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or black pepper
- 1 medium head cauliflower trimmed, and florets separated
- Sea salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or Tamari
Coarsely chop the cauliflower into florets, then place half of the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until the consistency of rice. Set aside and repeat with the remaining cauliflower. Shred one carrot in the food processor or dice (I used shredded carrot). Combine egg and egg whites in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Season with salt. Heat a large non-stick pan or wok over medium heat, then add olive oil. Add the eggs and cook, turning a few times until set; set aside. Add the sesame oil and sauté scallion whites, peas and carrots and garlic about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and sauté one additional minute. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the cauliflower “rice” and soy sauce to the pan. Mix, cover and cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. Add the egg then remove from heat and mix in scallion greens. Serve immediately.