It’s post-Super Bowl Monday. I was at a gathering last evening with Super Bowl appropriate foods that would make your heart run into a closet and hide as we would if someone were chasing us with a gun. Yes, there was definitely buffalo chicken dip. Let’s not forget the jalapeno cheese poppers with a yummy ranch dipping sauce. Main entrees, of course included beef and chicken chili’s. However, to go with the chili was an unbelieveable corn bread soufflé. It started with a box of Jiffy cornbread mix. I peeked at the recipe which had flavor enhancing ingredients like butter and sour cream. Let me tell you, that may have been the highlight of the evening – it certainly wasn’t the lopsided football game! Did you also know that Super Bowl Sunday is second to Thanksgiving in calories consumption? Little fact I didn’t know. FYI I enjoyed the night thoroughly with goods friends and decadent foods – in spite of my disappointment in Peyton Manning:(
Here we are a new day and a new month! February happens to be healthy heart month. I’m going to push hard to get people to make some small changes in their diets to improve their heart health. As you are beginning to figure out about me, I am an avid proponent of cardiovascular disease prevention. The facts are clear. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death in this country. It takes the lives of more than 2200 Americans each day. Shockingly, the American Heart Association reports that in 2008, 150,00 of those who died were younger than 65! This is not a disease that just affects older Americans! There is no denying that our dietary intake impacts our heart health. Eating well now can help lead to a greater quality of life as we age! There are bound to be some foods listed below that you will like! I always say, if it doesn’t taste good people won’t eat it, no matter how healthy.
The foods that give the biggest boost to your heart and help prevent CVD are fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and plant sterols and stanols. I want to talk about each group, what beneficial nutrients they contain, and specific foods in each group. Let’s get started with fruits and vegetables. Obvious, you say? Maybe, but it is the rare individual I see that actual gets the recommended servings per day (which is 5, by the way). Fruits and veggies are loaded with carotenoids which are powerful heart-protective antioxidants. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene all fall under this classification. Also, polyphenols are another set of antioxidants found in all types of berries. Antioxidants help protect the arteries against inflammation which makes them more susceptible to plaque formation. They also contain fiber which helps keep your arteries clean as well. Take a piece of fruit on your way out the door to keep in your car for later. Keep a bowl of fruit (such as grapes or berries) on your kitchen counter that your family can grab a handful of while walking by. Make sure to include a fruit or vegetable with each meal.
Legumes can really help battle heart disease. Some common legumes are beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, and soybeans. Legumes are sooo good for us! They are excellent sources of protein and fiber, contain half of your folate requirement for the day, are rich in antioxidants and also have a low glycemic index. They are also very filling making you less likely to overeat as they will keep you satiated longer. There are so many different types of legumes it would be difficult to not find a recipe that would tickle your fancy! Try to set a goal for yourself to include legumes in a meal and/or snack at least twice a week.
Fish! I’m just gonna say everyone should really try and consume a fatty fish twice a week. A supplement is not the same. Studies have shown the omega-3’s from actual food sources are more beneficial than those taken in a supplement! Fish high in omega-3’s include salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, albacore tuna, and pacific halibut. Oysters and mussels are also relatively high in omega-3’s. Omega-3’s help boost the immune system and are known to have anti-inflammatory proterties. They are also thought to prevent heart attacks by protecting arteries from plaque buildup, lower blood pressure, and lower triglycerides.. There have also been studies stuggesting that they help increase HDL cholesterol levels.
Whole grains are an excellent source of dietary fiber and also contain B vitamins, iron, vitamin E, and polyphenols (remember we talked about this one already). The American Heart Association recommends we get six to eight servings of whole grains per day. As you have probably heard on the Cheerios commercial, oats are a particularly good source of soluble fiber (called beta-glucan). This is believed to be strongly linked with lowering LDL cholesterol. Try and switch out refined white grains for whole grains as often as possible. This may take some adjustment of your taste buds, but I promise eventually you will start to like the whole grains better (for example, brown rice over white rice). Yesterday we had run out of whole wheat bread and I had white bread toast. Quite frankly, it tasted bland to me. I bet if you give it a try, you’ll eventually come to the same conclusion.
Nut and seeds are incredibly rich in heart-healthy fats, antioxidants, phytosterols, protein and fiber. This makes them a strong fighter against heart disease. Many studies show that regular consumption of nuts is associated with a reduced risk of CVD. Walnuts and flaxseeds in particular are known for their heart-healthy benefits. These are both high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Diets high in ALA can help reverse and prevent CVD. Ground flaxseed can be sprinkled on foods such as yogurt, fruit smoothies, or anything else you can think of! Be creative in incorporating some of these foods into your daily diet.
Plant sterols and stanols help prevent cardiovascular disease by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine which significantly helps lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels. It is difficult to get enough of these into your diet by eating foods that naturally contain them. They are often added to foods such as orange juice, margarine, milk, and several others. Check the labels of some of these products to see if they are enriched with plant sterols/stanols.
So if you overindulged like I did for Super Bowl here are some foods to include in your diet to get you back on track. Maybe set some goals for yourself since it’s Healthy Heart Month. By the way, even if you don’t have a history of heart disease or any degree of cardiovascular disease now, these are excellent food choices to keep your body healthy! I know I mentioned many names of antioxidants and other substances. I wasn’t just name dropping! I want you to become familiar with some of these terms so that when you hear or see them you recognize them as being heart healthy. Nothing like the present to get started….Omaha!!!!!!