February is heart health awareness month. And whether you’re 32 or 82, heart health is one of the areas most overlooked by women. This is because many of us still believe that heart disease is a ‘man’s illness (and yes, while men do have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, once women reach menopause the risk levels balance out).
The good news is, you don’t need fancy supplements to keep your heart healthy at an early age. Many of the foods that are best for our cardiovascular system are simple, affordable, and yummy! Aim to consume these regularly for maximum impact in the long run.
Dark leafy greens
These are loaded with magnesium, antioxidants and fiber to keep blood vessels clear and your heart pumping strong. Whether its spinach, kale or collard greens, cook them any way you enjoy and aim to eat a serving (½ cup cooked) daily! They are easy to sneak into pasta sauce, an omelette or stir-fry so no excuses! Simply season with a bit of lemon and pinch of sea salt for best absorption of all the goodness they have to offer.
Nuts & seeds
Ok, this is a large category, so to be more specific I’ll say focus on walnuts and hemp seeds.
Although many types of nuts and seeds are healthy for the heart, walnuts and hemp seeds are packed with omega-3 fats that help lower inflammation, cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. Don’t worry about weight gain with these either, only a handful are necessary to obtain the benefits (about 100 calories) and thanks to the healthy fats and protein, you’ll feel more satisfied after snacking too.
For those of you who know me (and my chocolate addiction) well, this is a no-brainer. Dark chocolate (the real stuff which contains at least 60-70% cocoa), is full of heart-loving nutrients known as flavonoids and blood-pressure lowering magnesium. 1-2 squares of good quality dark chocolate can be eaten every day (without the guilt), so treat yourself, and your heart, to a bite-sized bit of sweetness for optimum health.
Olives contain a specific type of mono-unsaturated fat known as oleic acid. It’s a type of omega-9 that has been specifically shown to reduce heart disease risk, especially if you also suffer from blood sugar issues. Keep in mind, olive oil is a fragile oil and should not be heated above a medium level heat. Drizzle a tablespoon or two on salad, grilled veggies or meat at the dinner table to keep your heart in tip-top shape.
Last but certainly not least is the humble blueberry. While all berries are protective for heart health, blueberries are one of the darkest in colour, and contain a lot of fiber compared to its water content. This simply means they pack a powerful antioxidant punch, don’t raise your blood sugar levels too much and taste amazing! To enjoy them all year round, buy a package of frozen berries to keep on hand for oatmeal or a morning smoothie. Bonus: they do wonders for glowing skin!
There you have it! My top 5 heart healthy superfoods that are simple enough to include every day. What’s your favourite way to boost your heart with nutrition? Comment below & let me know.