4 Heart-Healthy Nutrients You Can’t Do Without!
February is Heart Health month. And rightfully so. One in four, or almost 80 million Americans, have some form of heart disease. It is the number one killer disease in America, and up to half of those deaths could be prevented with changes in lifestyle, with diet your first line of defense. Lower your risk now by including these 4 heart-healthy nutrients in your diet.
1) The Omega-3s: While the “bad” fats like saturated fats in red meat or cheese and trans fats in processed foods are major players in the
development of heart disease, some fats, especially the omega-3 fats, can save your heart by lowering blood fats, regulating heart rate, dropping blood pressure,and improving blood flow. There are 3 omega-3s, and the one most important to heart health is DHA. Salmon and other fatty fish are the best source of omega-3s. Aim for at least two servings a week, or choose foods fortified with an algal or vegetarian DHA (it will say life’sDHA on the label).
2) Soluble Fiber: There are lots of different types of fiber. The fibers in vegetables and whole wheat are called insoluble fiber and they help keep you regular and lower colon cancer risk. It is the soluble fibers that will lower your heart disease risk. These fibers, found in fruits, oats, and legumes, lower blood cholesterol levels including the “bad” cholesterol in the blood called LDL-cholesterol, thus reducing your risk for heart disease. You should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber a day, with several sources being soluble fiber.
3) Folate: The B vitamins, especially folate, lower heart disease risk by reducing levels of a compound called homocysteine in the blood. This compound irritates blood vessel walls, increasing inflammation associated with the underlying cause of heart disease, atherosclerosis. Optimal intake of folate-rich foods, such as dark green leafies, orange juice, and legumes, lower homocysteine levels, thus reducing your risk for heart disease. Aim for two folate-rich foods or at least 400 micrograms daily.
4) Antioxidants: Little oxygen fragments, called free radicals or oxidants, damage artery walls contributing to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Maintain a well-stocked arsenal of anti-free radicals or anti-oxidants and you side-step this damage and keep those arteries free and clear. Colorful fruits and vegetables, plain, frozen, or juiced, are your main source of all the antioxidants, from vitamin C and beta carotene to the almost one million phytonutrients that have antioxidant effects on preventing disease. Aim for at least 9 servings a day.
Speaking of Heart Health Month . . .
I am are still floating a few feet off the ground after a night at the Woman’s Day and the American Heart Association’s Red Dress Awards in New York City on February 15th.
To have been honored with the Healthy Heart Award, amongst such incredible people as Dr. Mehmet Oz, Star Jones, and Dr. Martha Gulati from Ohio State University, is a highlight of my life. The best part was sitting next to and meeting the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, who also was an honoree.
Hey, listening to Sugarland from the front row wasn’t too bad either!
Just Do This Today
Drink a small glass of OJ with breakfast.
It doesn’t get much easier than this and the benefits are amazing! A 6-ounce glass of OJ every morning reduces your risk for stroke (by up to 20%), lowers the “bad” cholesterol called LDLs and boost the good cholesterol called HDLs thus reducing heart disease risk, lowers colon cancer risk, and reduces blood pressure. A glass of OJ supplies up to 140 milligrams of vitamin C, as well as potassium, folic acid, and a phytochemical called D-limonene that detoxifies cancer-causing substances. That vitamin C also helps protect skin from sun damage and aging. Not bad for a little cup of juice!
Hot Off the Diet Press
1. Calories Do Count: At Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, researchers compared weight loss from four different diets, from low-carb to high-carb, low-fat to high-protein, and found that it didn’t matter what diet people followed, the only tried-and-true factor when it came to successful weight loss was cutting calories. http://1.usa.gov/xycJqy
2. Sugar Blues: Teens who consume large amounts of junk food loaded with high fructose corn syrup are at high risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to a study from the Medical College of Georgia. http://1.usa.gov/yF69UF
3. Brain Food: People who maintain high blood levels of omega-3s, as well as vitamins B, C, D, and E, perform better on tests for thinking ability and have larger brain volume, state researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. http://1.usa.gov/wOPqWW
Food & Mood Tip
Iron-Clad Rules: If your thinking is on a down-hill slide, you could be iron deficient. Young children, teenage girls, and women during the childbearing years – especially those who exercise, have been pregnant within the past two years, or consume diets of less than 2,500 calories – are at particular risk for iron deficiency. In fact, iron is the most common nutrient deficiency – estimates are as high as 80% of active women and 20% of women in general have low iron levels.
Iron is important for thinking because it is the key oxygen-carrier in the body and the brain. This mineral also is a component of numerous brain enzymes that help regulate brain function. When iron levels decrease, the brain and nerve cells are starved for oxygen, resulting in fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, lack of motivation, shortened attention span, and reduced work performance.
The first line of defense is to eat more iron-rich foods, including extra-lean red meat, cooked dried beans and peas, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried apricots. Cook in cast-iron pots and the iron will leach out of the pot and into the food, raising the iron content of the meal several fold. Also, drink vitamin C-rich orange juice with iron-rich meals to boost iron absorption.
Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week
Have a Two-Some Lunch: As you focus on real, authentic foods, make sure at least half the plate is colorful fruits and vegetables, which are packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation associated with heart disease, dementia, and a loss of sex drive. This is an easy one, just include 2 servings of fruits or vegetables at every meal and one at every snack. The Two-Some Lunch should be 1) light and 2) low-fat. Open a bag of salad greens, add some left-over chicken breast strips or black beans and a little light salad dressing for an instant meal that reduces inflammation and loads the plate with an Antioxidant Orgy.
Mood-Boosting Recipe of the week
Ham, Cheese, and Spinach Frittata
Serve with whole wheat toast and a glass of OJ for breakfast, or crusty French bread and a salad for lunch or dinner.
1 /2 cup yellow onion, diced
4 whole eggs, whipped
1 cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of 4 eggs)
1 /2 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
2/3 cup low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2/3 cup turkey ham, diced
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9″ square baking dish or deep-dish pie pan.
1) Spray a medium, non-stick pan and place over medium heat. Add onion and saute until transparent, approximately 5 minutes. Set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, blend eggs, egg substitute, milk, salt, and pepper. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly.
3) Pour mixture into greased pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until frittata puffs and turns golden brown. Serves 8.
Nutritional Analysis per serving: 144 Calories; 39% fat (6.2 grams); 2 grams saturated fat; 48% protein; 13% carbohydrate; 1.2 grams fiber.
1 serving Ham, Cheese and Spinach Frittata
1 cup calcium- and vitamin D-fortified orange juice
2 slices whole wheat toast topped with 1 tablespoon jam
Tea or coffee (sweetened with artificial sweetener, if desired)
1 ounce nuts
2 tablespoons craisins
1 Chicken-Salad sandwich made with:
2 ounces cubed chicken breast mixed with 2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons diced celery, salt and pepper to taste
2 lettuce leaves
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 cup jicama, peeled and sliced
1 cup cole slaw made with light dressing
2 cups canned vegetable beef soup
Spinach salad made with:
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup canned mandarin oranges, drained
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
1 cup nonfat milk
1 packet sugar-free cocoa mix
Nutritional Analysis for the day: 2020 Calories; 30% fat (67 grams); 12 gram saturated fat; 1.8 grams omega-3 fats; 21% protein; 49% carbohydrate; 35 grams fiber.