February is all about hearts. Yes, this includes celebrating our loves ones with heart-shaped cards and superfood-approved sweets and chocolate (which IS a superfood)! Putting Valentine’s Day aside, heart month is all about that organ in your chest that keeps you healthy by pumping blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
From an early age, we are taught the importance of maintaining a strong heart. We quickly understand that eating healthy foods and exercising will help keep our heart in peak condition and help us avoid long-term health issues, like cardiovascular disease. What does healthy eating and adequate exercise look like in our everyday? What foods should we be looking for? Do we all need to get a gym membership?
This is where we get stuck. We know that our heart needs us to eat healthy and exercise, but so many of us don’t know how or where to start.
In the spirit of keeping all of our hearts pumping strong during Heart Month, I’m sharing a few simple but effective food and exercise guidelines for long-term heart health.
First and foremost, be sure to incorporate superfoods or “calorie-sparse, nutrient-dense, plant-based foods” onto your daily plate. Think greens, greens, greens, rainbow fruits and veggies, balanced proteins, omega fats, and lots of fresh herbs and other functional foods like ginger, mushrooms, matcha green tea, and turmeric to name a few.
Manage your Fats and Sugars
Most cardiovascular disease is driven by an over consumption of fats and sugars. Many times, we’re eating fats and sugars without even realizing it because they’re hidden in highly processed foods. While we do need to eliminate processed foods, this is not to say that we should completely eliminate fats and sugars from our diet. In fact, there are good fats and sugars that our body actually needs to function optionally. The trick is to consume foods that have a fat and sugar content as nature has intended. Tree nuts, legumes and leafy greens are a great source of natural fat and berries and other fruits are a great source of friendly sugar. Remember, too much of a good thing isn’t a good idea either. Incorporate natural fats and sugars into your diet mindfully through superfoods.
Opt for the Omegas
Have you ever heard of essential fatty acids? These are fats that are essential to cardiovascular health, but the human body cannot produce on its own. Essential fatty acids come from foods that contain them int he form of Omega 3s and Omega 6s. It’s our job to consume a diet that contains these essential fatty acids, but it’s important to note that not all Omegas are the same – Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory whereas Omega 6s are pro-inflammatory.
In today’s modern diet, we are eating too few Omega 3s relative to Omega 6s, in part due to our reliance on cereal grains (which are rich in Omega 6s). Therefore, one should strive to eat ore Omega 3s and less Omega 6s by focusing on consuming greens and seeds like chia, flax and walnuts. Overall, greens, rainbow fruits and veggies, Omega 3s and spices like turmeric and ginger can help reduce the risk of inflammation.
Walk up a Sweat
Exercise helps prevent inflammation and utilizes the energy we get from food, but you don’t need to be a marathon runner or power lifter to achieve great heart health. Start by slowly incorporating exercise into your daily routine with walking.
We should be aiming to get at least 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day. Most people walk 3,000 to 5,000 in their daily day-to-day shuffle, so give yourself an extra hour a day to achieve more!
Don’t forget! When you exercise, it’s important to rest and hydrate. You may be wondering how much sleep and water we need to maintain optimal health. The truth is, it depends on the person. What matters is that you are getting quality hours of rest and enough pure water to keep your system running smoothly.
Whether your goal is to improve or maintain heart health, achieving balance and wellness always depends on key components like mindfulness and clean eating, exercise, adequate rest and hydration.
Here’s to hearts everywhere… and chocolate. Yum!
Want to learn more about Plant Based eating? Join Dr. Todd for a store tour and cooking demo:
- March 18: Plant Based Eating Made Simple (Pepper Pike)
- April 1: Plant Based Eating Made Simple (Mayfield Village)
- April 15: Plant Based Eating Made Simple (Rocky River)
- May 8: Plant Based Eating Made Simple (Strongsville)
- May 20: Plant Based Eating Made Simple (Chardon)
- June 4: Plant Based Eating Made Simple (Hudson)