February is American Heart Month. It’s a time to bring awareness to heart disease and stroke, the number one killer in the United States, so you and the people you love don’t become a statistic. This month is particularly personal for me, as my mom has heart disease. She had quadruple bypass surgery one year ago this month. If you know someone who would benefit from this information on preventing heart disease, please share it.
Five Foods That Will Save Your Heart
One way to prevent heart disease is to eat healthy. In this post, I’ll highlight five different foods that can save your heart – literally. These are not the only five foods that protect your heart, but they stand out as star performers in my book.
1. Garlic: Known as “the stinking rose,” this herb does not stink when it comes to heart health. Numerous studies have demonstrated potential benefits of regular garlic consumption on blood pressure, platelet aggregation, serum triglyceride level, and cholesterol levels – all of which keep your ticker ticking. The other thing I like about garlic is that it can be used to season food so you can cut back (way back) on the salt.
2. Salmon: Swap out the burger high in saturated fat with salmon. Everyone has room for a little saturated fat, but a little goes a long way. A typical cheeseburger has more than a half day’s worth (from the beef and the cheese). Saturated fat will clog your arteries and put you at greater risk for a heart attack. Salmon, on the other hand, lowers your risk thanks to heart healthy fats. Omega-3s help prevent erratic heart rhythms, make blood less likely to clot inside arteries, improve the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol, and prevent cholesterol from becoming damaged. (Only after cholesterol has been damaged does it clog arteries.)
3. Berries and Cherries: I gotta give equal props to nature’s candy here. These sweet treats are high in polyphenols, which prevent cell damage that can lead to unhealthy blood vessels and heart. In the winter months, I opt for the frozen fruits. Try thawing a bag of frozen strawberries in the refrigerator. Top unsweetened, steel-cut oatmeal with these berries and some of the juice and your heart will thank you with every beat.
4. Quinoa: Commonly mistaken for a grain, these tiny sprouted seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, the mineral that relaxes blood vessels. Low dietary levels of magnesium are associated with increased rates of hypertension, ischemic heart disease and heart arrhythmias. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. Quinoa cooks up quickly and makes great leftovers. Mix in grilled vegetables and roasted chicken for a one-pot dish.
5. Hot Cocoa: How sweet is this? Hot cocoa is chock-full of antioxidants – twice as much as red wine and three times more powerful than green tea. The chilly air of February is no match for a cup of hot cocoa. Here’s a tip: many hot chocolate mixes are loaded with sugar. Buy 100% cocoa and then add a small amount of sugar. A teaspoon is enough for me. Don’t forget there are natural sugars in the milk so you’re better off starting with less sugar.