February is associated with one thing -- Valentine’s Day. But the American Heart Association gives it a different name -- American Heart Month. Now, granted, I guess Valentine’s Day does have to do with hearts, so in a way there’s an overlap.
That being said, let’s take a look at 11 Foods You SHOULD be eating to keep the ‘ol ticker (and body overall) strong.
- Cinnamon. Another powerful spice, just ½ tsp per day has been shown to lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides. It may also lower blood sugar in those with diabetes and is a powerful antioxidant – sprinkle some on oatmeal, in smoothies, on cottage cheese, or yogurt.
- Swiss chard. This green, leafy nutrient powerhouse is loaded with good stuff. It’s high in vitamins A, K and folate, among others. Sauté some with garlic and a bit of olive oil, with a pinch of kosher salt, black and red pepper.
- Sardines. These tiny fish are super high in omega-3 fats and are almost free of mercury and other contaminants, unfortunately unlike many other fish. They’re also a great source of calcium and vitamin D. They’re sold year round in the can … add them to salads, mix them in pasta sauce, or use them in place of tuna fish or canned salmon. Don’t be afraid -- give them a try!
- Turmeric. This is the ultimate anti-inflammatory spice. Add it to rice, chicken, veggie dishes, or even try it in scrambled eggs.
- Red cabbage. This cruciferous vegetable is loaded antioxidant polyphenols – particularly anthocyanins, which give red cabbage its color, and may be responsible protecting the brain from Alzheimer’s disease. It also has up to 8 times the vitamin C of green cabbage. Add shredded cabbage to wraps, salads, or find a mayo free recipe for coleslaw and give it a try. Or combine foods 4 & 5 and add a sprinkle of turmeric to any of the cabbage dishes.
- Quinoa. This ancient grain boasts one of the highest protein contents of any grain. It’s also high in fiber, and higher in many other minerals than most grains. It’s great as a breakfast cereal, mixed with some dried fruit and nuts, or use it as a substitute for rice in recipes.
- Broccoli. This cruciferous vegetable is particularly high in a nutrient called sulforaphane, which has cancer-fighting properties. Mix broccoli into omelets, on salads, in stir-fry or pasta sauce.
- Black beans. Outside of fruits and veggies, beans are one of the top carbs in my book. They are loaded with fiber and protein, which will both help keep you full and keep that heart kickin’. A study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry even showed they have the highest level of certain antioxidants among other beans, comparable to that of cranberries and grapes! Add them to salads, wraps, or soup.
- Garlic. This stuff is not just powerful for your breath, but it is a powerful antioxidant, may have antibacterial properties, may boost immunity, and may lower cholesterol. Slice, chop, or mince it at least 10 minutes before using, to get the most benefit. Add to soups, sauces, eggs, or when sautéing veggies.
- Almonds. Nuts often get a bad wrap and for no good reason. They are amazing for you. Almonds in particular have been shown to improve heart health by maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. In fact, the data are so strong that there’s even a health claim --
- Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. NOTE: 1.5 oz. is about a handful. Claims like that aren’t just given out to anything.
- Wild blueberries. These tiny little nutrient powerhouses should be a regular part of the diet. One study showed eating 1 cup of blueberries per day improved mental function – the study was done in rats, but it’s a great start for further research in this area with humans. The compound that gives blueberries their dark color, anthocyanin, seems to be one of the major factors in their health benefits. Fortunately you can get them year round – pick up a bag of frozen berries and add them to smoothies, yogurt, or cottage cheese. They’re also loaded in fiber, which certainly keeps the heart happy.
There you have it. MOST lists talk about foods you should STOP eating ... we like to do things different here, so I’m talking about 11 foods you SHOULD be eating.