Originally dedicated as American Heart Health Month by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, February reminds us to pay a bit more attention to our most vital organ!
Heart disease is America’s #1 killer!
Heart disease accounts for 1 out of 4 deaths (more than 600,000 each year) including 735,000 heart attacks each year. That is a staggering statistic if you think about the fact that it is preventable and reversible.
One of the best things you can do for your heart is eat a whole-food, plant-based diet.
Whole food referring to foods as grown, and less of the processed stuff. Plant-based includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
The reason why a plant-based dietary pattern works so well to keep the heart healthy is that it’s low in sodium, fat, particularly saturated fat, and cholesterol, which damages arteries and makes it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body and get oxygen to all the other organs.
Foods that are especially good for the heart:
- Garlic and red onions – Garlic prevents cholesterol particles from sticking to artery walls and prevents the liver from making new cholesterol. Onions contain antioxidants that promote normal blood pressure, prevent heart disease and stroke. Use 2-4 cloves per day or a garlic supplement. Use red onions in salads or to cook with.
- Beets – contain compounds which help lower blood pressure and improve oxygenation (increase the amount of oxygen in your blood). Be mindful though, when eating beets, they can change the color of urine and stools to red.
- Fiber – makes stools bulky and soft trapping and removing bile and fat from the body, lowering LDL-cholesterol and increasing HDL-cholesterol. Comes naturally in fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. Choose ½ cup oatmeal or beans per day, eat a handful of nuts, or can be taken as a fiber supplement.
- Apples – another great source of soluble fiber, apples contain pectin which forms a thick gel helping to remove excess cholesterol from the body.
- Tomatoes, Tart Cherries, and Grapes – contain antioxidants (like lycopene and resveratrol) that protect heart cells (and all other cells) from oxidative damage and prevents blood clots. Drink 1 ounce of tart cherry juice after working out for faster recovery. Tart cherries also contain melatonin, so they can help with sleep problems, a risk factor for heart disease.
- Red Yeast Rice – usually found as a supplement, contains natural compounds that reduce cholesterol, without all the side effects that can happen with drugs.