February is here, and we’re often surrounded by candy hearts, heart chocolates and the words love at every corner. This Valentine’s day don’t forget to not only show love to that special someone, but also show your heart some love by indulging in some of our heart healthy tips. Did you know that Valentine’s day coincides with American Heart Month? This is a federally designated event proclaimed in 1963 as a reminder to love on that heart of yours! Heart disease including stroke continues to be the leading global cause of death and is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030. But as we learn ways to improve heart health, we can start to change that statistic!
Making small lifestyle and diet changes can have a big impact on heart health. Boosting your physical activity or implementing some new delicious foods are a couple ways to give your heart a little extra love and attention.
Heart Healthy Bites
Instead of thinking about foods to eliminate, try to focus on incorporating foods in your everyday that will optimize health.
One such type of food is called roughage or bulk, that is more commonly known as fiber. Fiber is a great source to foster heart health. Evidenced based research has been collected since the 1970’s indicating that fiber can prevent heart disease. As a nation we fall short in the fiber category, consuming 16g/day, which is about half of the recommended amount. You can find this heart healthy nutrient in plants, including fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains as well as legumes and nuts. Make sure to gradually increase your fiber intake to avoid gas and bloating as well as drink plenty of water. Fiber not only enhances your heart, but research also has shown links between increased fiber intake and reduced risk for Type 2 Diabetes, diverticular disease and constipation. Here are few tips to increase your fiber intake.
• Replace white grains with whole grains: Wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta and cereals
• Skip the juice and eat whole fruit instead. Juice unfortunately contains no fiber.
• Add some beans to those tacos, quesadillas, soups or salads-or serve as the main dish
• Nuts and seeds: Add these to salads, try them as a spread on bread or crackers or eat by themselves
• Enjoy some air-popped popcorn
• Check the Nutrition Facts label: A product with 10% DV (Daily Value) or more is a good source. 5% DV or less is low.
• Check out the recipe below for a quick, fiber full breakfast on the go!
A Little Something Sweet
Believe it or not chocolate not only tastes delicious, but also can be nutritious and provide healing properties. Chocolate originates from the fruit pods of the cacao tree and contains several nutrients when not overly processed. Therefore, it is rich in phytochemicals (flavonoids) that have shown to lower heart disease and provide antioxidants. Although, not all chocolate is created equal, so don’t go full-fledged Willy Wonka on us. Look for dark chocolate, this is the gold standard and is rich in heart-healthy flavonoids. Just make sure it’s at least 70% dark chocolate. The higher the percentage the more phytochemicals present. Remember though portion control is still important. A good rule of thumb is to consume ~1-2ounce at a time, which is roughly ~150-300 calories. Enjoy your dark chocolate and remember to share it with those you love.
Another tidbit of advice when shopping is to keep your eyes open for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark to find foods that are part of a heart healthy lifestyle.
We all have been told that physical activity is a good investment in our health and especially for our heart.
1. Lowers blood pressure
2. Boosts your HDL (good cholesterol)
3. Improves circulation
4. Prevents bone loss that could lead to osteoporosis.
5. Boosts those feel good hormones, known as endorphins
Even as little as 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can benefit your heart. Thirty minutes of physical activity 5 days a week can provide major heart health benefits. Or if you’re ambitious go for 75minutes a week of vigorous activity for a bigger heart health boost. If you can’t seem to fit in a solid 30 minutes, 5 days a week, then break it down into 10minute sessions, three times a day. Find something you enjoy and someone to enjoy it with. Or maybe you like to have some time to yourself when you’re active. Taking a walk, doing yoga and/or going on a hike may be a special time to refresh your mind and rejuvenate your body.
Check out some of the many activities we offer here at Active SWV, from walking groups, Qi gong, water aerobics, hiking in the woods, pickleball, biking, running groups and aerobic group fitness. Active SWV, has something for everyone to get you moving more, help you meet people in your community and simultaneously prevent heart disease. It’s a win-win!
Don’t forget to Go Red in February! National Wear Red Day is February 1st. In support of Heart Health Month sport red and unite with others from around the world to raise awareness about heart disease and save lives! Happy Heart Month!
Blueberry Muffin Oats
If you haven’t tried overnight oatmeal yet, just give it a shot, it’s one of the newest, nutrient packed way to begin your day! You can make it the night before and grab your breakfast to go, talk about a time saver. Time is often the biggest obstacle in the morning for so many and having a heart healthy, delicious breakfast ready to go is one way to free up extra time, or sleep in a bit longer. Plus, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and this one will keep you feeling full and satisfied. Mornings can be hard enough, make breakfast easy.
• 1/3 cup of old-fashioned oats (not instant-these will become mush)
• 2/3 cup milk of your choice
• 1/3 cup Greek yogurt for creaminess (or you can just use more milk)
• ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
• Dash of cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon chia seeds (extra omega 3s-
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla
• Optional-maple syrup or honey to sweeten
1. Use a jar or container that can hold at least ½ liter, add oats, milk, yogurt, cinnamon, chia seeds, vanilla and maple syrup. Shake up or stir and cover and chill in fridge overnight.
2. Puree blueberries in blender until smooth and stir in oats to create swirls. Top with additional blueberries if desired or nuts.
3. Don’t want to mess with the blender, just add whole blueberries in the morning.
Other Overnight Oatmeal Creations: The possibilities are endless!
• Peanut butter and Jelly Oats
• Chocolate Covered Strawberry Oats
• Banana Bread OatsShare