It’s Valentine’s Day! Time to think about your heart, and keeping it healthy!
Did you know that your heart beats approximately 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, transporting gallons and gallons of blood, oxygen, fuel, hormones and essential to every part of your body?
Your heart works pretty flippin’ hard. Since your heart is so crucial to so many functions (and staying alive in general), even younger folks can benefit by thinking about ways to treat their heart a little bit better. While many people develop some sort of cardiovascular disease as they age, it’s not inevitable.
One of the major problems for the heart is atherosclerosis. This is basically gunk gumming up inside the arteries. It collects in pockets, called plaque, which restrict blood flow to the arteries. When one breaks apart, a stroke or heart attack can be the result.
Luckily, lifestyle choices are a major factor for keeping your heart healthy, and if you’re reading this – you’re likely already committed to doing good things for your heart.
Eating better for your heart isn’t too different than eating better in general, but here are some heart-specific tips:
Control Your Portion Size
Eat larger portions of nutrient-dense food, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods (like most refined foods). You can always use an app or a journal to track how much you’re eating of which foods.
Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
We all know to eat our veggies. Fresh is always best, but if you have to buy canned, make sure that you’re checking the sodium levels. If you’re buying frozen fruit, make sure no sugar has been added.
Limit Your Unhealthy Fats
Fats aren’t all bad, but you want to make sure that you’re keeping balanced. You can control your saturated fat intake by choosing lean proteins and trimming fatty cuts of meat. Also, try using EVOO (that’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, yo!) in place of butter where you can.
Really, you don’t want any trans fats in your diet, so make sure that there are no hydrogenated oils in the food you’re buying and try to limit vegetable oil use – substitute for olive oil or canola oil. Also, add in healthy fats with nuts, seeds, fish and avocados. Serving fish 2-3 times per week helps you balance your fats as well as leaning out your proteins.
Reduce the Sodium in your Food
Eating a lot of sodium can help you develop high blood pressure, which is not what you want. A healthy amount of sodium per day is about 2300mg (about a teaspoon of salt. If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should have half that amount. Sure, not putting salt in and on things will help, but much of the sodium we ingest comes from prepared foods, so read those labels! When you can, substitute salt for other spices, and substitute low-sodium versions of any prepared foods you eat.
Eat Some Heart-Healthy Beans
Legumes can be a great addition to your meal planning, and are heart-healthy. Include legumes like lentils, chickpeas or beans in at least a couple of meals per week.
… and, not food-related:
Regular exercise is a key part of any healthy lifestyle, but you guys already knew that ;)
Limit Your Stress
Stress is a huge factor in heart-health. Do what you can to manage your various stressors – whether that’s learning how to say no, not taking on more than you can handle, or making time to relax or meditate – try to identify the things that give you stress, and find ways to deal with them.
Our post wouldn’t be complete without a romantic recipe that’s good for your heart:
Whitefish with Chickpea Ragu
2 unfrozen filets of white fish of choice (8oz approx) (if cooking from frozen, cook longer and flip midway through)
Ragu Ingredients: 1 Tbsp EVOO, 2 Tbsp butter, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp sugar, ½ cup diced onion, ½ cup diced fennel, ½ cup (125 mL) diced red peppers, ½ cup sliced zucchini, sliced, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp white wine, 2 Tbsp chopped canned whole tomatoes (make sure there’s no salt added), ⅔ cup cooked chickpeas, 6 basil leaves basil, 2 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley, dash salt and pepper, 2 Tbsp lemon juice
Heat EVOO, butter and garlic in a small pot on medium heat. Once garlic has browned, add paprika and cook for about 2 minutes. Next, add onions, fennel, peppers and zucchini and cook for another 4-6 minutes. Add sugar and caramelize, once golden, add vinegar and wine, reduce the ragu by half. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ragu from heat and stir in the herbs, salt and pepper. Lightly coat the whitefish in oil, season if desired, and bake for 8 minutes at 400ºF (220ºC) for 8 min. Remove from heat let rest. Spoon the ragu into dishes, and place the fish on top. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.