If you want to eat heart healthy and still wine and dine your special someone on the big day, you’re in luck, because many of the world’s most delicious foods are extremely good for your heart’s health. The key is to know which foods promote wellness and prevent heart disease, and then work a variety of those into your diet — even on Valentine’s Day.
Hint: Wine, berries and dark chocolate all contain a variety of heart-protective chemicals, including ﬂavonoids, which are compounds that inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood, lowering your risk for heart attack and strokes.
Here’s a list of dietary components to have you eating to your heart’s content — on February 14 and all year long!
Omega-3 fatty acids. Found in lots of good-for-you foods like wild-caught salmon, fresh sardines, and leafy green veggies, omega 3s are essential nutrients for health, because they offer protection against heart disease and possibly, stroke. Spinach and broccoli combine their omega-3s with important fiber, Vitamin E, and folate, all of which promote healthy hearts; Chia seeds, an omega-3 powerhouse, are low in calories and help reduce bad cholesterol and plaque buildup.
Good Fats. As oxymoronic as that sounds, they do exist and are readily available in a variety of nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, and healthy oils, such as extra virgin olive, coconut and avocado, among others. People who eat nuts several days a week have a lower incidence of heart disease than people who eat them less often, because nuts are absolutely full of vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats. Healthy oils contain antioxidants that help unclog arteries, or at least decrease hardening, unlike “bad fat” oils (vegetable, canola) which can raise cholesterol. They also have the ability to modify fatty acids in tissues around the heart. Though healthy, these foods can be high in calories, so limit portions if trying to lose or maintain weight.
Resveratrol. Dark skinned berries, grapes and red wines are packed with resveratrol, a compound with heart healthy antioxidants. Because it would take more wine each day than is recommended to get your daily supply of resveratrol, tossing some berries on your oatmeal or yogurt can help you meet your quota.
Potassium. Useful for lowering hypertension, potassium can be found in a variety of foods, including raisins, avocados, bananas, mushrooms, potatoes with the skin and tons of other vegetables.
Whole Grains. The key to keeping grains in a healthy diet is to avoid processed, refined grains, which are steeped in glutens that have been associated with heart ailments including clogged arteries. Oat bran, rice and other whole grains can regulate cholesterol, and protect against coronary disease. For oatmeal, steel cut and rolled oats are both superfoods and seriously trump instant and ﬂavored oats, which tend to be full of sugar.
Fruits. Apples (with the skin on) contain vitamins and minerals that block the absorption of cholesterol and sweeps it out of your body. Oranges and other citrus, like grapefruit, can lower blood pressure, reduce artery inflammation, and improves blood flow to the heart. Their vitamin C protects against stroke and reduces cholesterol.
Hopefully you can tell, that eating a variety of delicious foods and having a healthy heart is easily possible — even on Valentine’s Day! Wine, berries and dark chocolate contain a variety of heart-protective chemicals, including ﬂavonoids, compounds that inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood, which can help lower risk for heart attack and strokes.
Try working these things into your diet, along with reducing sodium and focusing on lean proteins. Your heart will love you for it.