Post on: .
Posted in: Read.
Love yourself – you’re pretty awesome. You’ve got your own beat and we love it!
Speaking of your own beat, have you given your heart a little love lately? It has a pretty tough job – it never gets a break. Here’s a handful of natural ways you can keep your ticker happy and healthy.
1) Green Vegetables
All of the hype around green vegetables is true! Green vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Green vegetables offer a plethora of health benefits. For instance, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that eating eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, especially green leafy vegetables, resulted in a more than 20 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to eating less than three. In a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that antioxidants in green leafy vegetables reduce heart disease risk by protecting heart rate flexibility. The researchers concluded that eating more green leafy vegetables could help reduce heart disease.
How do you get more green vegetables into your diet?
Dinner is a great place to start – try adding in a darker leafy green (kale, spinach) in your salad, or enjoy broccoli or collards as a side vegetable. Dislike the taste of green vegetables? You can still get greens into your diet by using a whole food green powder in a smoothie. Green whole food powders are a convenient and easy way for everyone to get more greens into your diet.
Colourful berries are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients that support health. For example, the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study looked at the dietary intake of 2641 Finnish men, aged 42-60 years, for 12 years to see if food effected the risk of death. They found that the men who ate the highest amounts of berries, fruits and vegetables were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, as well as non-cardiovascular reasons. Diets rich in plant-based foods, including berries are known to be some of the healthiest on earth.
Why are berries so healthy for you? Berries are a good source of nutrients known to support cardiovascular health: polyphenols (especially anthocyanins) and fiber. In clinical trials, berries rich in anthocyanins (strawberries, chokeberries, blueberries, cranberries) have been shown to significantly improve many factors thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular death (plaque formation, LDL oxidation, dyslipidemia, glucose metabolism, plasma antioxidant capacity). In fact, according to a paper published in Nutrition Review in 2010, “…data supports the recommendation of berries as an essential fruit group in a heart-healthy diet.”
How do you get more berries into your diet?
Berries require virtually no preparation – rinse and toss them on your cereal, salad or dessert. An awesome finger food, berries make for a great snack for kids of all ages. My kids love to put raspberries on each of their finger tips – super funny! Sometimes fresh berries are not available, so then try frozen. Frozen berries are great in smoothies, or baked goods (yes, the nutrition gal just said baked goods…so yummy!)
3) Fish Oil
We’ve known for decades that eating fish leads to healthier hearts.Fish contains two particularly heart healthy fats called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are called essential fatty acids as they cannot be created in our bodies, we have to get them from food.
How much do you need?
Cardioprotective benefits have been observed in clinical studies with daily consumption of as little as 1 to 2 oz (25 to 57 g) of fish – that’s about one fatty-fish meal a week. If you’re taking an omega-3 supplement, you may find it easy to start thinking about it not as how much omega-3 you’re swallowing, but how much EPA+DHA. These to fats are the ones you really need to count. Health Canada suggests a range from 250mg of EPA+DHA to 5000mg of EPA+DHA.
Every now and then, new scientific discovery revolutionizes the way we think about things. An example is the discovery of the link between microbes in our digestive tract called probiotics and our health. The type and amount of microflora in your digestive tract influences almost every asset of your health – including heart health. Studies have discovered that some forms of helpful microbes, called probiotics, beneficially influence inflammation and cholesterol – two factors associated with cardiovascular health. As such, ensuring your digestive tract contains helpful probiotics may be another way to promote heart health.
How do you get probiotics into your diet?
Fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir contain probiotics. Higher amounts of probiotics are available in supplements. Probiotic supplements are created by microbe experts, and include specific probiotic species that support health in the body. There are lots to choose from. If you try one and don’t get the desired health benefit, try another – remember your microflora is unique like your fingerprint so the probiotic your sibling takes, and swears by, may not necessarily be the perfect one for you.
Food for Thought
Its time to replace deep-fried chicken wings and reclining chairs for chickpeas and a stationary bike. A low-cholesterol diet is important for a healthy heart. A low-cholesterol diet is one that replaces animal-based foods for beans, nuts, seeds and fish; plus, avoids deep-fried or packaged foods. Add in nutrients such as green vegetables, berries, fish oil and probiotics and you’ve got a menu for a healthy heart the natural way.
Jones, ML et al. Cholesterol lowering with bile salt hydrolase-active probiotic bacteria, mechanism of action, clinical evidence and future direction for heart health applications. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2013 May;13(5):631-42. doi: 10.1517/14712598.2013.758706. Epub 2013 Jan 28
Joshipura, KJ et al. Eating fruits and vegetables helps prevents coronary heart disease. Annals of Internal Medicine June 19, 2001 vol. 134 no. 12 1106-1114
Park, SK et al. Fruit, vegetable, and fish consumption and heart rate variability: the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89: 778-786, 2009.
Rissanen, TH et al. Low Intake of Fruits, Berries and Vegetables Is Associated with Excess Mortality in Men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study. J. Nutr. January 1, 2003 vol. 133 no. 1 199-204