The Christmas decorations are put away and the Valentine’s Day decorations are coming out. We show our love to each other in specific ways on Valentine’s Day, but remember that February is also Healthy Heart Month. What are the top things we can do to show our heart some love and keep it pumping at its best?
- Eat less processed carbohydrates. Low-carb diets are increasingly popular because the reality is that too much carbohydrate, especially processed/refined carbohydrates can cause an imbalance in our digestive tract and consequently can put our health out of balance. By choosing carbohydrates largely from the “greens” category, our nutrient intake remains high while our refined carbohydrate intake stays low.
Those in the “greens” category would be: leafy greens, cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts) asparagus, celery, cucumber, zucchini, chives, leeks, are very low in carbs but very high in nutrients. The bulk of our produce choices should be from this category. Some fruit is good for us, and also packs a big nutritional punch. But given the “sweetness” of fruit, it should be a smaller part of our produce choices. The exception to the fruit rule is avocado. It is an excellent source of nutrients and healthy fats. Keep sugars to a minimum by only eating sweet treats (processed carbs like cookies, etc.) occasionally.
- Eat healthy fats to provide other energy sources, such as olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, grass fed butter and ghee. These provide nutrients and a concentrated energy source that complements our diet and helps keep our digestive tract healthy, as well as keeping all our joints lubricated. Good fats also help us feel full and less likely to wander to the vending machine or the cookie jar.
- Avoid unhealthy fats, which are very inflammatory. Trans fats are so dangerous to our health, and do not supply any nutritional value. Our bodies do not process them well and they cause inflammation. Steer clear of any fat listed in an ingredient as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
- Choose healthy protein options like grass-fed meat, pastured chicken, cage-free or Omega 3 eggs and wild-caught fish. Prepare these with healthy fats and flavorful herbs to keep us on target and eating the best food sources. Protein requirements on average are 1.2 grams per kg of body weight. (Pounds/2.2=kilograms). Don’t overload on protein, it is not necessary and is not a balanced diet providing the maximum nutrients.
- Reduce stress and make time for exercise to promote a healthy heart. Stress management and regular exercise are key not only to our heart health, but bone health and brain health, as well. We often think that stress is just part of our job, or our life situation, but there are great stress management techniques that help us keep ourselves from feeling that overwhelmed, stress-out feeling too often. Exercise is a great stress-reliever, so it’s really a double bonus. Make time to be active 3-5 days a week.
- Supplements may be helpful for our heart and overall health. Vitamin D is essential for our immune system, keeping inflammation in check and subsequently protecting our heart. Blood levels of Vitamin D are woefully low in many people, and supplements may be the only way to keep our blood levels in the beneficial range (especially during the winter months). We want our Vitamin D levels to be at the high end of normal: 50-80 ng/mL. CoQ10 is essential for our brain health, and anyone taking a statin MUST supplement with a high quality CoQ10. (Other supplements may be necessary if there are deficiencies or specific healthy concerns/goals, but those require a personalized nutrition analysis and plan.)
Cardiovascular health is key in keeping ourselves healthy: not only our heart, but our brain and our circulatory system, as well. Strive to pump up your heart-healthy strategies this month… and the months to come.