And what better way to celebrate than by preparing and eating foods that will keep your heart healthy and strong?
The heart is made of muscle tissue, and its job is to pump blood throughout the body. Blood carries valuable nutrients to all the cells in our body. In order to push the blood through our arteries, the heart muscle must be strong.
Healthy diet and daily exercise work together to keep our heart muscles strong. Excess calories that are not burned-off through physical activity are stored as fat or can accumulate on the inside of blood vessels. Excess fat can surround the heart causing it to work harder to pump blood. Fat build-up on the inside of arteries makes them narrower and the heart must pump harder to push blood through a smaller opening. This can lead to high blood pressure. Rather than making our heart stronger, all the extra pushing and pumping weakens the heart muscle. In some people, sodium can aggravate this situation by causing more fluid to move into the blood making the heart work even harder to push a larger volume of blood through the arteries.
To reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, start making small changes to your lifestyle that include eating less fat, sugar, sodium and excess calories. Start moving more. As the days get longer, bundle-up and take a walk outside.
Here are some other suggestions to help you on your way to a stronger, healthier heart. Try one (or more). Your heart will love you for it!
How do I love thee heart? Let me count the ways.
1. Choose lean sources of animal protein such as skinless chicken, turkey, fish and pork. Avoid high fat meats like sausage, pepperoni, bologna and bacon.
2. Go meatless three (3) days a week by preparing meals made with your favorite beans such as pinto, black, garbanzo, kidney and white beans.
3. Use olive or canola oil to fry or sauté foods instead of butter or margarine.
4. Make half your plate dark leafy greens and other colorful vegetables steamed, raw or stir-fried.
5. Limit sodium intake to 2,000 mg per day (read those labels!). Deli and processed meats are loaded with sodium, as are canned soups and boxed flavored rice. The more you cook from scratch, the less sodium you will consume.
*Modified from Minimalist Baker http://minimalistbaker.com/roasted-beet-hummus/
Beets are full of vitamins, minerals and other substances that help the heart muscle to function at its best. Try this colorful twist on regular hummus by adding roasted beets to make a quick snack or appetizer.
Total Time: 10 minutes
1 small roasted beet
1- 15oz can cooked chickpeas (1-3/4 cup), mostly drained
Juice of ½ lemon
2 large cloves garlic
2 tbsp tahini
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Blend until smooth. If too thick, add a little water or orange juice (a tbsp. or more if needed).
Place in a bowl and serve with raw carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers or other vegetable of your choice. May also be eaten with whole grain crackers, rice cakes or pita bread.
February Is Also National Chocolate Month!
And luckily for chocolate lovers, dark chocolate may have many benefits for the heart. According to several studies, cocoa has been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease inflammation, increase “good” or HDL cholesterol, reduce cholesterol build-up in arteries and reduce overall risk of cardiovascular disease. A s with everything, moderation and portion size are key. The best protection for your heart is through eating a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables.