The Best Foods to Boost Your Heart Health
Heart health is paramount to living an active and vibrant life, free of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Your heart and blood vessels make up the cardiovascular system, and its primary function is to deliver oxygen and vital nutrients throughout the body. It works tirelessly to support us, and needless to say, we can’t live without it, so it’s critical to keep it in good health. You can begin taking care of your heart at any age; you’re never too young or too old. Start by introducing the best foods to boost your heart health.
Now, this root vegetable might not be the first thing you pick up at the grocery store, but it’s a warming winter food with a whopping amount of heart benefits. Folate is a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in growth, development, and heart health and protects against oxidative damage. The red and yellow pigments found in beets provide powerful antioxidant protection and are rich in folate.
If you’re buying a bunch of beets to store:
- Cut the tops off
- Keep them unrinsed (until you prepare them)
- Wrap them in a plastic bag with as much air squeezed out as possible
- Store in the fridge
To prepare steamed beets:
- Cut them into quarters with the skin on and steam covered for 15-minutes, or until you can easily insert a fork
- Rub the skins off with a paper towel
- Toss with olive oil, salt, and perhaps some chopped garlic to get a double dose of heart-healthy foods.
* Pro-tip: Keep the tops! The green tops are a great source of fibre, and heart-healthy nutrients like folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Steam with the root, slice into ribbons and add to soups, stews, and salads.
Consuming walnuts is part of having a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Walnuts contain cardioprotective nutrients, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the amino acid l-arginine. Diets rich in ALA are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. L-arginine is an essential amino acid used to make nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is what’s known as a vasodilator, which relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. Walnuts are an easy snack to take on the go, pair with an apple or chop and add to salads.
(The World’s Healthiest Foods, Mateljan, 2007)
We know avocados have been a trendy snack for many years, hello avocado toast, but it’s with good reason. The majority of their fat content is heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, like olive oil. They are also a good source of vitamin K, dietary fibre, potassium, folate, and vitamin C. Monounsaturated fats, the fats associated with the Mediterranean diet, are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and reduced cholesterol levels. As avocados are not local to Canada, be mindful of their environmental footprint; their farming encourages deforestation, and they have to travel a far distance to reach our stores. Enjoy them in moderation, with other healthy fats that are local such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and sunflower seeds.
Fish, such as anchovies, sardines, herring, and salmon, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential anti-inflammatory, and a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Salmon is particularly heart-healthy, protects against heart disease and improves blood flow. These fish are called fatty because of the concentration of ALA, an omega-3 essential fatty acid perfect for heart health. ALA converts into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which lowers triglycerides and prevents erratic heart rhythms.
While cooking fish at home may not be your favourite go-to meal, if you can master the cooking, you’re more likely to include it in your regular repertoire. Quick broil is a simple and easy method.
How to quick broil:
- Heat the oven with an empty sheet pan on the middle rack
- While the is heating up, season the fish with salt, lemon and spices
- Place seasoned fish on the hot pan, sealing in the juices and keeping the fish from sticking
- Cooking time depends on the fish; 1-2 minutes for thin fillets and 5-7 minutes for salmon.
There is nothing like garlic’s unique, hot pungency to add a kick to any dish. Along with adding flavour, garlic reduces cholesterol and blood pressure improving blood flow. Fresh garlic is best and after chopping, let it sit for 5-10 minutes to increase the activity of health-promoting sulphur compounds. You also want to expose garlic to heat for as little as possible (5-15 minutes) to preserve the sulphur-containing molecules and prevent them from tasting bitter.
The enjoyment of lentils reaches as far back as the ancient Greeks for medicinal and culinary purposes and is widely used today as a dietary staple in India. If you’re new to cooking with lentils, you’ll soon discover how versatile they are, and, unlike other members of the legume family, you don’t have to soak them before eating. They are rich in dietary fibre and folate. Lentils reduce inflammation and blood pressure. Search for lentil recipes such as spaghetti bolognese, dahl, curry, tacos, and soup.
In clinical trials, Hibiscus tea has shown antihypertensive properties; 240-ml daily servings for six weeks lowered systolic blood pressure (The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Murray and Pizzorno, 2012). It’s an excellent choice for a warm beverage on a cold day to combat moderate hypertension.
We know you need something quick when hunger strikes. Keep this list in mind for a heart-healthy snack:
– Apples and peanut butter
– Hummus with celery
– Chia seed pudding
– Avocado toast
– Oatmeal with banana
– Sardines in olive oil
Eat the rainbow, keep it simple, healthy and delicious. Avoid highly processed foods and consume small quantities of red meat and dairy products. Take care of your heart, and it will take care of you.
Visit us in store, have a chat with one of our experts! We can also be reached on Facebook and Instagram. Now it’s your turn to tell us, how do you keep your exercise routine going? Be sure to tag us! We are #ReflexNation.