Our heart is one of the most important organs in our body because its beat is the most immediate vital sign of life, and also because its health is directly related to our vitality, health and ability to function! Here then are the foods (my favorites and other expert recommended, of course), which pack the most power to keep our heart (and blood vessels too) healthy.
Feeding Our Heart,
Oatmeal is the cereal of choice for our heart. Why? Oatmeal contains soluble fiber that binds to bile (bile helps us to digest and absorb our dietary fat and cholesterol). Less bile, less fat and cholesterol absorbed! Our liver then makes bile from our stored cholesterol, lowering our cholesterol levels further. Lower levels of total cholesterol are associated with lowered rates of heart disease. Oat-bran packs a double punch, and has also been shown to be as effective and possibly more than just oatmeal. So cereals made from oats, are hard to beat.
Pineapple contains the well known natural anti-inflammatory enzyme Bromelain. How is inflammation connected to heart disease? Well, research has shown that when inflammation exists in our body, we may also have high levels of immune cells circulating in our blood (one such marker known in blood tests as C-reactive proteins) that may stick to our blood vessel walls similar to cholesterol. This contributes to the hardening and narrowing of our blood vessels. I recommend that we eat fresh raw pineapple on an empty stomach to optimize its benefit.
Green Leafy Vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens contain folic acid which has been shown to lower homocysteine levels in our blood. High levels of homocysteine, like C-reactive proteins and cholesterol damage the lining of our blood vessels. More Dark Greens please!
Salmon and other cold water fish contain those heart healthy fish oils known as our "Omega-3's". These heart healthy fats not only help to lower cholesterol levels, they act as anti-inflammatory agents, and as anti-clotting factors to prevent blood clots. Some studies also suggest that they may help to lower blood pressure as well. What more can we ask for from a tasty fatty fish? Let's choose poached and other low fat methods of cooking, so we reap the benefits!
Soy whole food products containing at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving have been approved by the FDA to claim heart health benefits if other health criteria are met, such as low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. The determination is that if we have 4 servings of whole soy foods per day, we can significantly lower our LDL cholesterol levels (L stands for lousy, which is how I remember that this is the bad cholesterol!). Notice I mentioned whole foods, such as tofu and soy milk since there are risk factors for some of us when we take in these powerful foods in drug form.
Olive Oil is a monounsaturated fat which has shown to have a higher protective effect on our blood vessels than even our polyunsaturated oils such as corn oil. Olive oil has not only shown to lower total blood serum cholesterol, but it appears to preserve our HDL levels (H for healthy cholesterol!). Some studies in Italy have shown that other chemical components including antioxidants known as phenolic compounds in olive oil help to lower dietary cholesterol absorption and inflammation. These compounds have also shown to aid circulation. A tablespoon a day perhaps? See my additional comment below on one very unhealthy oil.
Garlic has been shown to also lower cholesterol, and it also acts as a blood thinner (inhibits the formation of blood clots) showing great promise as an anticoagulant drug with less side effects than synthetic drugs. Raw fresh garlic is recommended, so I guess we need to bone up on healthy breath fresheners?
Water is vital for every function in our body as we've discussed so many times, so here I'll just say that water plays a part in our blood viscosity (thickness), keeping our blood flowing! Studies have shown that a high percentage of heart attacks take place within a few hours after we eat a high fat meal (steak?) due in part to a large amount of fat molecules circulating in our blood, which increases our blood viscosity. Keep drinking!
Okay, I've listed some of the most important easily available foods we can choose to eat almost everyday to "Feed Our Hearts". Of course, all fruits and vegetables contribute important minerals to give us an optimal mineral-fluid balance, vital for a high ratio of potassium to sodium. This is also why our minimum of "5 a day" is really important. All the foods I've listed contain other health benefits, but today let's love our heart and focus on eating some of them everyday if we don't do so currently. Lastly, my list does not include all the other wonderful available foods that are heart healthy, or nutrients that are found in supplements, but I think its a good start! Here's an important quote I came across:
"Heart experts generally agree that a 1 percent drop in total cholesterol can equal a 2 percent drop in heart disease risk. Heart disease kills more Americans than any other illness. Disorders of the heart and blood vessels, including stroke, cause nearly 1 million deaths yearly". FDA Consumer magazine, May- June 2000. (I'd like to add that cardiovascular disease starts when we're young with cumulative effects as we age!)
Oh, almost forgot another heart healthy food in the news lately, Chocolate! But, I'll save that for another tip....
Speaking of oils, let's consider one oil commonly found in processed and baked foods found to be harmful to our health, environment and to animals, palm oil, that is. Want more info on this? Check out a new award winning documentary on palm oil deforestation and its impact on the evironment and orangutans http://www.greenthefilm.com/. Palm oil while a plant based oil, is a saturated fat, unhealthy to our hearts.
Here's to "Feeding Our Heart" for Our Health (and it's never to early or too late to start)!
June M. Lay M.S.
The above recommended foods are not meant to replace any prescription medications, nor are they to meant to provide medical advise.(I am only recommending whole foods as well)
Want help with your exercise, heart health and weight goals? Contact us for information on the new "10-week Personalized Get- in- Shape" Programs by emailing me or go http://www.junefit.com/serviceshp.htm Services provided in NYC, and nationally through Skype web service, email and phone when appropriate.
For more information on American Heart Health Events, go to http://healthfinder.gov/nho/PDFs/FebruaryNHOtoolkit.pdf
For More info on National Wear Red Day go to http://www.goredforwomen.org/wearredday/resources/documents/WRDPromotionalFlyerHR.pdf, and here is a link to even more info and links to a National Red Day Toolkit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/materials/wear-red-toolkit.htm
June is Lifestyle Columnist at www.healthnewsdigest.com/
(c) junefit 2012
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