Updated: Feb 7, 2021
In honor of February being American Heart health month let’s talk about how you can eat for heart.
To think you can treat heart disease by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar with medication is like mopping up the floor while the sink continues to overflow. The root cause isn’t being resolved and will continue to worsen until it is. The best medicine for reducing your risk for heart disease or stroke is your diet and lifestyle choices.
The goal is simple really: eat more foods that are good for the heart and fewer foods linked to cardiovascular disease. A diet of overly processed foods, low-fiber refined grains, processed oils and few fruits and vegetables, will contribute to inflammation and heart disease over time.
Food is medicine. It has so much power to heal and make us feel amazing.
So what should we be eating to feed our heart?
Focus on adding real whole unprocessed foods to your daily meals. These are the foods that don’t require an ingredient label because you already know what's in them.
Antioxidant rich vegetables and fruit such as leafy greens and berries
Fiber packed nuts and seeds such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and sardines
Whole grains such as barley, quinoa and farro
The food industry has historically promoted that all fats are bad and they were thus removed from many products. Unfortunately this caused them to be replaced with sugar and salts to compensate for the flavor and mouth feel that fats provide.
We need fat in our diets, for hormone production, cellular function and brain function. The key is to opt for healthy or unsaturated fats.
The fats to focus on for optimal health includes unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oils, avocado and fish. I recommend adding 2 tbsp. of healthy fat to every meal.
Meal or snack ideas could include:
Avocado on toast or in tacos
Smoked salmon on toast
Peanut butter in a smoothie
Slivered almonds in oatmeal
Olive Oil in salad dressing
The fats you want to crowd out or consume in moderation are saturated and trans-fats. These are found in animal products such as red meats or dairy and processed foods such as pastries.
Some simple swaps you can make:
Replace canola or vegetable oil with olive or avocado oil
Choose salad dressings made with olive oil or make your own
Chose baked foods rather than fried
Scan ingredient lists to avoid anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
Incorporate "Meatless Mondays"
Historically, eggs and cholesterol were believed to be bad for heart health. Recent research has found that your total cholesterol is not impacted by dietary cholesterol intake.
What we have learned from looking at the Blue Zones is that a pre-dominantly plant based diet is the key to heart health and longevity. The Blue Zones are places around the world that not only have the highest concentrations of centenarians or people who live over the age of 100, but also, clusters of people who have grown old without health problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. Interestingly, studies have found that genetics only play a 20–30% role in longevity. Therefore, environmental influences including diet and lifestyle, play a huge role in determining your lifespan.
One commonality in the Blue Zones is a pre-dominantly plant-plant based diet. Plant-based diets don't exactly have an agreed upon definition, but they focus on including as many fruits, vegetables, legumes, nut, seeds and healthy fats as possible thus crowding out the other food groups. The benefits are hard to ignore and to help you give it a shot I have developed a 2 week plant based meal plan including a bunch of new recipes packed with variety of different immune boosting vitamins, minerals plants and proteins. I promise these recipes won’t leave you missing meat for even a second. At the very least I’d encourage you to try one of these recipes a day or even few a week…maybe give meatless Monday a shot and see what you think? The benefits are hard to ignore and your heart will thank you.
The 2 week plant based meal plan will be accessible on 2/8/21 under the resources tab on this website as well as Famous University.