heart is an amazing muscle. The average heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of
blood each day. February is National Heart Month – a great reminder that we
need to protect those magnificent hearts of ours as much as possible.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. It includes coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, arrhythmias, angina, myocardial infarction and others. Certain lifestyle factors can increase our risk for heart disease, including smoking, alcohol consumption, limited exercise, being overweight, medications, pollutants, and diet.
The Mediterranean-style diet has been touted for many years as a very heart-healthy diet. People living in the Mediterranean region consume copious amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, olive oil, seafood and lean meats. Here are just some of the benefits:
Eating fewer refined grains and plenty of seafood can provide heart health benefits. The beneficial omega-3s EPA and DHA can be found in cold-water fish, like cod and salmon. Omega-3s promote a healthy, stable heart; healthy blood vessels and circulation; and arterial wall elasticity.
- MONOUNSATURATED FATS
Typically found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds, monounsaturated fats are beneficial heart-healthy oils and are a much better option than trans fats, which we should avoid altogether. Nuts such as walnuts and almonds contain a type of fat, called linolenic acid, which has cardiovascular benefits.
- COMPLEX CARBS & FIBER
The Mediterranean Diet includes complex carbohydrates and high fiber whole grains. The soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, has been found to promote healthy cholesterol levels.
- PLANT STEROLS
Plant sterols are found naturally in foods like olive oil, almonds, beans, bananas, apples, and tomatoes and offer many heart-healthy properties.
Certain spices, including cayenne, ginger, and turmeric, promote healthy inflammation balance. Garlic can also support heart health.
- NON-GMO, FERMENTED SOY
Non-GMO, fermented soy from miso, tempeh, and natto can have cholesterol benefits.
Antioxidant foods, like pomegranate, avocado, blueberries, asparagus, cabbage, ginger, and green tea are beneficial to heart health. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect our body from free radical damage and promotes a healthy heart.
- VITAMIN D3
Vitamin D3 is important for promoting a healthy heart. Foods higher in vitamin D3 include wild-caught fish, beef, egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms, and fortified foods.
- VITAMIN K
Vitamin K is an important nutrient for both adults and kids. It promotes healthy cardiovascular function and supports healthy blood flow. Vitamin K1-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, and vitamin K2 is found in meat, dairy, and natto.
Foods like avocados, black beans, and almonds are magnesium rich. Magnesium is an important mineral that oversees more than 350 enzymatic processes in our body.
Like the other muscles in our body, the heart requires calcium for healthy contraction. Calcium-rich foods include cheese, tofu, sardines, almonds, kale, and black-eyed peas. Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3, and vitamins K1 and K2 work together to promote cardiovascular system health.
It’s easy to add all of these heart-healthy foods into our diet. Get creative and have fun spicing up your meals.
NOTE: Certain oils and spices can be mildly blood thinning and foods plentiful in vitamin K can be mildly coagulating, so be sure to check with your practitioner if you are on blood thinning medications.