Keeping a Sweet Heart
February is national heart month. Not only do we celebrate our loved ones with candy hearts, decadent chocolate and mushy love notes, but it is also the time of year to think about the heart health. The heart is a powerful muscle whose primary function is to pump blood to all parts of the body, delivering nutrients and oxygen to your organs and tissues. In an average day the heart will beat more than 100,000 times per day, pumping more than 4,300 gallons of blood throughout the entire body.
However, in 2002, the World Health Organization estimated that 16.7 million people around the world die of heart disease. Heart disease affects 1 out of 4 men and is the leading cause of death among women. Heart failure may occur suddenly, or develop gradually over years. But one thing is for certain, exercise and nutrition habits play a major role in preventing heart disease. Here are some nutrition tips to ensure you send many more roses and love notes for many years to come.
Eat for Your Sweet Heart:
Fruits and Vegetables: Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures that you are taking in a wide range of nutrients to protect against heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, beta carotene, bioflavonoids and phytochemicals, all of which are essential antioxidants in the prevention of heart disease.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3’s have been found to help decrease triglyceride levels, the rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and arrhythmias. Fish high in Omega 3 include: salmon, sardines, herring, trout, mackerel, bluefish, halibut, striped bass, tuna, Atlantic cod, and flounder. Other sources of Omega 3– rich foods include: canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and wheat germ.
Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber helps to decrease cholesterol levels, therefore working to decrease risk for heart disease. Foods high in soluble fiber include: oats, oat bran, pectin, pyslium, flax, lentils, legumes, apples, pears, and grapes.
Nuts: Nuts are high in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and essential fatty acid. Eaten in moderation, nuts can help decrease risk for heart disease. A few examples of some heart healthy nuts include: almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, peanuts, and pistachios.
Folate: Foods rich in folate help to decrease risk for heart disease by helping to regulate homocysteine levels. Green leafy vegetables, orange juice, lentils, whole grain enriched cereals, and asparagus are great sources of folate.