Food for Thought: A Healthy Heart!
As I sat down to write about a Healthy Heart, I struggled a bit with where to begin, as there is so much contradictory information out there. This can certainly leave you feeling a bit confused and maybe even overwhelmed. There are theories that tout adding a spoonful, or two of coconut oil to smoothies and those who say stay away from saturated fats all together. There are diet regimes that suggest eating lots of animal protein and no grains and those who say animal protein is a bad thing for the heart and to consume more vegetables. Believe it or not, nutrition is still a fledgling science and it is ever evolving as the latest research points us in a new direction.
Having studied integrative nutrition for many years, I consistently see that all the experts agree on consuming more leafy greens and seasonal veggies; reducing or eliminating sugar from your daily diet; avoiding overly processed pre-packaged foods and preparing more whole foods at home; and to stop being a couch potato and to keep your body moving. I agree with the experts, but will add my two cents below. As always, before starting any new diet or lifestyle change, be sure to consult with your doctor.
In previous columns I have alluded to overall inflammation in the body and how to reduce it and without sounding like a broken record, this is critical for a healthy heart. I believe it begins with a healthy, loving attitude towards life, which includes reducing day to day stress; to stop worrying over every little thing; to rephrase negative chatter to positive thinking, and to live from a place of gratitude & love. Fear and worry erodes health and hope leaves room for doubt that things will get better. When we believe in our ability to heal that is when the magic happens! I speak from personal experience on this front.
Once you have shifted to a positive mindset the rest is a piece of cake, or should I say “leafy green” … I’m actually a big fan of many of the concepts in a Mediterranean diet, which include healthier fats like olive oil and avocado oil; lots of leafy greens and veggies; anti-inflammatory herbs like oregano, thyme, sage, & rosemary; organic nuts, seeds, and beans; less refined whole grains like sprouted whole wheat, quinoa, amaranth, & millet; wild caught fish from time to time; along with foods rich in polyphenols like organic berries, coffee, green tea, and even a little red wine & dark chocolate as tolerated.
I’m not a fan of dairy and feel this, for many, can trigger lots of inflammation. I will occasionally enjoy goat or sheep cheese, but avoid it otherwise. I believe some folks need a little animal protein in their diet and others do better being totally plant based. If you are a “meat” eater try reducing the portion size, keeping it lean, grass-fed, free-range, and making it less often and as a side dish to your veggies. Avoid those overly processed foods, especially those with sugar, bad fats, and yucky chemicals. Foods that sit on that fence of heart healthy or not, like coconut oil, butter, coffee, etc., I’m a big believer in moderation. It’s kind of that 80/20 rule – if 80% of the time you eat/live a heart healthy lifestyle, then the 20% is just part of living all in!
Some of my go-to superfoods include fermented vegetables; nut milk yogurts; chia, fax, & hemp seeds; fermented tempeh; green juices and nutrient dense smoothies; ginger & turmeric root in teas or stir-fries, and living foods like sprouts and microgreens. These are all super heart healthy and will support reduced inflammation in the body.
What I have consistently witnessed is when folks make these changes and are consistently practicing a heart healthy lifestyle (80% of the time) their doctors begin either reducing or even eliminating blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar medications. As I like to say, LOVE yourself enough to ______ (you fill in the blank)!
If you have a topic you’d like to learn more about, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time!
Janet E. Verney is an Author, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Wellness Designer, and Healthy Food Chef who resides in Higganum and loves helping others to “health-up” their lives! Have a burning health or nutrition question, write to Janet at email@example.com. To learn more, visit her website at roots2wellness.com.
Some Heart Healthy Recipes:
Berry Nutty Smoothie:
1 cup frozen berries of choice
¼ cup of mixed soaked/dehydrated nuts & seeds (chia, hemp, pumpkin, walnut)
Juice of ½ of lemon
Organic almond milk or water
Drops of stevia or pitted date for added sweetness (optional)
¼ avocado and or banana (optional for a creamy texture and added nutrients)
Blend on high until well mixed.
3 cups walnuts (soaked & dehydrated)
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 T chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. turmeric powder
Dash of pink sea salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Wrap in collard greens or romaine lettuce, top with sprouts and shredded & chopped veggies of choice
1 T ground chia seeds
1/4 C water
1 T olive oil
1/4 t baking soda (non-aluminum)
1/4 t pink sea salt
1/2 C ground flax meal
1 C ground almonds
A pinch of rosemary, oregano, & sage
Whisk the chia seed with the water until it is “egg-like.” Add oil, baking soda, and sea salt and whisk until well blended. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flax meal and then the ground almonds. Mix until dough forms.
Place dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll flat. Slide the dough that is between the parchment paper onto a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle with the spice blend. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or place in the dehydrator for 24-36 hours, or until crisp.
Can be used as a pizza crust or broken into small pieces for dipping or spreads.
6 large Medjool dates, cut in half the long way and pitted
3 Tbs. melted dark chocolate, preferably 85% dark
1 Tbs. hemp hearts
Cut a small triangle at the top of each date half and pinch the lower portion to make the shape of a heart. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Spoon about ½ tablespoon of dark chocolate on each heart. Sprinkle with hemp hearts. Set in the refrigerator until set. They make a wonderful holiday or hostess gift. Great to have a batch in the refrigerator for when you just need something a little sweet and chocolaty.