February is the perfect month to take care of your heart.
Emotionally and physically.
Valentine’s Day and the American Heart Association honor this month to remind us of the importance of a healthy lifestyle that supports healthy hearts.
Exercise as simple as a nice walk daily. Diet that does not include processed foods. Spending time with loved ones and/or pets. Stress reduction. These are all key factors.
So take a look at your lifestyle and see what simple changes you can make. Ask a friend to take a walk then share a simple meal together. Find some quiet to clear your mind and take notice of the beauty and peace of nature. Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.
Chocolate is not only a go-to Valentine’s ingredient, it offers health benefits as well. Studies conclude that chocolate can improve memory, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, boost immune health and have a positive effect on mood. The key to this exciting news is only dark chocolate has positive results.
When selecting chocolate look for a minimum of 70% cacao concentration. Cacao is bitter so manufacturers offset it with milk solids and sugar but acquiring a taste for the slightly bitter flavor of dark chocolate is worth it not only health wise but you will savor its flavor longer not eating as much. Cacao contains a bliss chemical called therombine, makes you feel good and fall in love.
When using cocoa powder use natural as it has more flavonols than Dutch process which is a process to neutralize the acid lowering the nutritional benefits. Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to your next batch of chili – it will deepen the flavor and add a powerful nutrition boost.
On the following page are two delicious recipes to use your dark chocolate.
Colorful foods help heart health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. About 92 million people in the U.S. have some form of heart/cardiovascular disease which is about 29 percent of the population.
Food choices have a big impact on your heart’s health, even if you have other risk factors. The best way to get all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients you need is to eat a variety of colorful fruits and veggies.
Check your plate for each of the five main color groups:
- Red and Pink: Beets, cherries, cranberries, tomatoes, and red potatoes
- Blue and Purple: Blackberries, blueberries, red cabbage, red onions, figs and grapes
- Yellow and Orange: Acorn squash, apricots, cantaloupes, carrots, yams, and oranges
- White and Brown: Bananas, cauliflower, currants, mushrooms, onions, turnips
- Green: Asparagus, avocado, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, spinach, limes, kiwis.
Challenge yourself to try new recipes and foods. You just might be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy them.
Peggy Marchini, MPH, RDN, CDE