American Heart Month with associates

By Emilie Matthaei, RD

You gotta nourish to flourish! Eating a heart-healthy diet is a form of self-care. It’s good for our hearts and one of the ways proven to lower heart disease risk. February is American Heart Month, a fitting time to focus on the organ linked to feelings and emotion, the heart. Your diet is one of the most important things you can control to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Check out these heart health superstars to get started today!

Fiber

Have you ever wondered how a certain O-shaped cereal earned its claim to heart health by lowering cholesterol? It is not an ultra-high-tech, proprietary type of technology… it’s simply fiber! Whole grain oats are naturally rich in soluble fiber, which works to lower your low-density lipoproteins or the “bad” cholesterol in the body.

  • Other good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans and legumes, apples, berries, sweet potatoes, and psyllium husk.
Virginia-grown apples in display

Virginia-grown apples on display as the superfood of the month at The Village Orchard Ridge.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

By now, we’ve all heard we should be eating more omega-3 fatty acids. But what’s the science behind this mythical substance and what is the best way to incorporate them into our diets?

Omega-3s can be found in both animal and plant-based foods. These fats can lower triglyceride levels in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • A few good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, lake trout, sardines, walnuts, or flaxseed. Aim for 2 servings of fatty fish per week.
salmon bowl

Salmon is not only a great source of omega-3 fatty acid. It’s also a lean protein that can improve brain function. This fresh salmon bowl was prepared by one of our Corporate Executive Chefs.

Antioxidants

“Antioxidant” is another buzzy term that makes the news frequently.

As a reaction to environmental and other stresses, free radicals are produced by our body. These are unstable molecules that damage cells in our bodies. When the body cannot process and remove these free radicals, oxidative stress may occur which is linked to an increased risk of developing conditions such as atherosclerosis.

Oxidation occurs continuously as we breathe, digest food, or are exposed to pollutants like cigarette smoke, which results in the production of those free radicals. We can avoid smoking but breathing and eating are pretty essential.  Good news!  Consuming antioxidants is one of the best defenses to fight back.

Antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta carotene can break the chain of damage caused by free radicals. Eating a diet loaded with antioxidant-containing foods fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Eating a diet loaded with antioxidant-containing foods fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Whole grain superfoods display featuring freekeh sliders at Atherton Baptist Home.

To incorporate all these heart-healthy substances, make tonight’s dinner baked salmon with warm lentil salad and wilted spinach, or tuck into a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and sliced almonds for breakfast tomorrow.

Our hearts beat about 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime – take a moment to incorporate these powerful nutrients and tell your heart “I <3 you” back.