“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates –
NO GREATER WORDS HAVE BEEN SPOKEN ABOUT THE DEEP RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUR HEALTH AND WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY AT EVERY MEAL. HIPPOCRATES UNDERSTOOD THIS CONCEPT MORE THAN 2,000 YEARS AGO, AND AS WE CELEBRATE HEART MONTH EACH FEBRUARY, THERE IS NO BETTER TIME TO TALK ABOUT BODY-LOVING FOODS.
It goes without saying that many of us will perhaps indulge in some red wine or dark chocolate with our loves on Valentine’s Day. Recent research has extolled the benefits of these sinfully delicious treats, along with the beloved cholesterol-clearing oatmeal. Today, we are going to look at a few ordinary bites, foods that are in their own right truly super foods! After all, fruits and vegetables truly are extraordinary and “super’”! A truly healthy diet features a broad range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, and here is a list of five of the best when it comes to keeping a high cardiovascular score! .
Remember when I mentioned red wine? Well, its claim to fame for heart health, is resveratrol, which may help prevent damage to blood vessels and minimize the risks of blood clots. This special compound may also reduce the build-up of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol, in artery walls that contributes to cardiovascualr disease and stroke. It is also thought that antioxidants like Anthocyanin found in berries (blueberries, strawberries and blackberries) help neutralize harmful byproducts of metabolism called free radicals that can lead to cancer and other age-related diseases.
Since we’re talking plant-based power foods here, let’s honor the humble lentil. Because they come from plants, legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent source of lean veggie protein and fiber without a lot of unhealthy fat. Legumes are also a great source of folate and magnesium, which may fight hypertension by limiting calcium buildup. Another mineral these little guys are loaded with is potassium, an electrolyte that counterbalances sodium – crucial for keeping blood pressure under control.
Go Nuts! – Almonds, Walnuts, and Chia
Almonds have long been a healthnut’s go-to snack, but it doesn’t deserve all the attention. Walnuts and Chia seeds are right up there on the list as far as benefits to the ticker is concerned. Chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, all of these guys promote healthy hearts, and reduce fatal arrhythmias. The plant sterols in almonds specifically, can reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, while the unsaturated oils encourage the liver to make less LDL and more “good” HDL.
These zippy and delicious citrus fruits contain a super soluble fiber called pectin, the famed compound also found in apples, which acts like a sponge inside the digestive system, absorbing excess cholesterol from food and blocking its absorption. Citrus pectin may also assist the body in neutralizing proteins that can cause scarring of the heart tissue. Be sure to consume the whole fruit though, as the pectin is contained in the pulp and pith.
Dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach and collards are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may protect against cardiovascular disease. Spinach is also rich in folate, which helps reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine can be a possible risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. Ever-popular Kale boasts an extra special compound that activates a protective protein called Nrf2. This protein develops a coating in your arteries to keep plaque from adhering.
So, what’s really important when it comes to showing your heart some real love, is eating a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods that deliver all of the nutrients and micronutrients needed to keep it, and you, healthy overall. Next time you are off to your local health food store to stock up on all those famous prepackaged and promoted “superfood” products, why not swing by your local famers market instead or visit the organic produce section of your favorite supermarket to fill your shopping basket with these alternatives.
Meg Pearson is the author of (un)cookbook MAP Wellness Morsels available through itunes!