It’s almost Valentines Day, so lets talk about heart health! The heart is an amazing organ that works non-stop every second of your life. Without its complete function, you cannot live. Disease and illnesses of the heart can cause compromised heart function, greatly compromising your overall quality of life.
Factors like our diet and other stresses, like smoking and the amount of physical activity we get, play a huge role in heart health.
In less than a minute, your heart can pump blood to every cell in your body. In about a day, your heart beats 100,000 times, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood containing oxygen and nutrients to 100 trillion cells through 60 thousand miles of blood vessels! That is a huge job that requires one special muscle!
The heart requires a lot of energy and quality nutrition to keep it healthy. The muscles in the heart are unique and do not fatigue, stoppping only when oxygen is no longer available. The demands put on the heart are so great; each cell in the heart muscle has many more mitochondria than other muscle cells have. Mitochondria are the parts of the cell that make energy.
Exercise increases the heart's fitness, so it can deliver more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Develop a good exercise program!
Studies show that a plant-based diet can even reverse heart and cardiovascular disease. Vegetative foods provide a bounty of nutrients the body needs for great heart health. Studies also show consuming nuts and seeds daily reduces the risk for heart disease. They're anti-inflammatory and a good source of Vitamin E, which is very important for cell membrane health and is also an antioxidant.
Omega 3’s from salmon, sardines, ground flax seed and walnuts reduce inflammation and keep blood platelets from sticking, reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease
Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables reduce inflammation and protect the heart from free radical damage. The greater the volume of oxygen needed in a cell to make energy, the higher the potential for free radical damage. The heart is a big air and fluid pump, so antioxidants are even more important for the heart muscle.
Some of the best foods for heart health are:
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans)
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens)
- Brussel sprouts
- Beans (pinto, garbanzo, black)
- Goji Berries
- Sweet Potatoes
- Wild rice
The better question might be which foods are actually bad for heart health. That is a simple answer: Any foods that are not good providers of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, enzymes and antioxidants should be avoided. This would mean any refined and processed foods.
Sugar is a poison that is the biggest cause of heart and cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association is recommending that women get no more than 6.5 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day and men get no more than 9.5 teaspoons (38 grams) per day.
- A Dairy Queen Blizzard has 26 teaspoons (124 grams) of sugar
- A 20 oz. Pepsi has 17.5 teaspoons (70 grams) of sugar
- A 1.7 ounce bag of M&M Peanuts has 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of sugar
So, for a healthy heart, avoid added sugars; use the healthiest sweeteners there are, including Truvia and raw honey. Make your diet mostly vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts and seeds. Exercise daily.
Read food labels. It is the first step on your road to wellness. If you do not know what you are eating how can you control it?
Happy healthy eating!