Our heart, this precious organ. We want to protect it from "-ache” we do not want to get "-broken” we put up walls and shield it from pain. Emotionally speaking that is, but how much effort are we putting into keeping this muscle happy, healthy and well, physically? Our tenacious ticker has the heavy responsibility of pumping blood to other vital organs where a process of giving and take and recharge happens in a matter of a heartbeat so oxygen and nutrients aka fuel can continually feed our body and the heart itself.  This is the Jessi short version for busy blog readers however I would like to invite you to take a moment of silence after this reading and give thanks for this masterpiece we call the human anatomy.

The Valentine heart box of chocolate began as a marketing strategy, turns out there is something to be said for giving the gift of “a most nourishing food” This is the very quote that Milton Hershey used to advertise his famous chocolate Kisses over 100 years ago. It is interesting how we associate these feelings of the heart with loving sentiments, yet when it comes to nourishment we tend to err on the side of risk rather than caution?

Ever wonder why we feel so happy after indulging in comfort food. Feels like we received a big hug on our insides, downright giddy.  Try cozying up with some of these next time you want to be kind to yourself  and give your heart the gift of love:

  • Tea Time: Tea is the second most-consumed beverage next to H2O. Made up of catechins and flavonoids which are some powerful antioxidants making this a "super" drink. Green, black and white varieties all are shown to reduce our LDL, (the bad cholesterol) that can lower risk of heart disease. The bonus is the calming nature drinking tea has on our mood. Perhaps that is why in some countries we set aside time in our day to savor this cup 'o peace along with some quiet time. 
  • Essential Fats: Yes loves you can eat fat. These "essential" fatty acids, not made in our body, are derived from our eating habits. Foods like salmon, walnuts, soybean (tofu) brussels sprouts, spinach, contain omegas. Almonds and avocados provide monosaturated fats, all which act medicinally caring for the vessels and arteries in our heart; they are the nourishment that assists our ticker in tocking smoothly.  Smart choices can mean life or death, and the saturated and trans fats are the ones you want to avoid at all costs. If it has a shelf life of ten years stay away!

Greens greens they are good for your heart: The darker and leafier the better. Making our RDA quota for micronutrients is tricky if you are not eating whole foods. You can get pretty close to perfect accuracy in valuable vitamins, particularly the B’s by loading up on your plant intake. There are plenty of studies that speak to the magnitude of heart-related diseases and just as many studies that show us that we have a chance of reducing risks that include artery hardening and plaque (causing our heart to malfunction) by a rise in folic acid.

So load up on:

  • Spinach
  • Collard
  • Brussels
  • Broccoli
  • Moreover, of course, Beans beans they are good for your heart.. oh and legumes: It was a cute and funny rhyme back then, and it is still cute and funny now, what rhymes with legumes? What’s not funny is a possible cardiovascular disease. These pod food varieties provide tons of protein and that super fiber content I discuss below. Low glycemic, something you hear rumblings about around the water cooler but perhaps aren’t sure what that means. Ever heard of the DASH diet? Nope, not one of the Kardashians new fitness crazes, it is the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. Foods that lean towards preventing a rise in your blood sugar, therefore, encouraging balance in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which my friends, is happy heart news.

  • Get Friendly with Fiber:  It is this miraculous mineral that most of us do not get enough because once again, here I go, EAT MORE FRUITS VEGGIES, AND DON’T BE AFRAID OF CARBS. One of the fibers roles in heart protection is its ability to keep us balanced or “regular” as we may have experienced. Better yet, bringing more fiber into your body helps to lower cholesterol, and that is directly related to heart disease. A bonus is that fiber helps us feel full which aids in the cause of smart eating in portions. Back to that balance thing, it is challenging for all of us. Obesity is a scary epidemic which puts toxic stress on our heart, eat fibrous foods for weight management, for a less heavy heart so to speak.

  • Spice it Up:  Experiment with different flavor profiles like fresh herbs and spices:
  • Rosemary
  •  Thyme
  •  Basil
  •  Dill
  •  Oregano
  • Tumeric
  •  Cinnamon
  •  Cumin
  •  Sodium is not bad for you per say but if you are unaware of your portions and content of ingredients in meals you may be getting more than necessary. High blood pressure can add stress to your heart, and sodium overload can put you at risk of heart attack. A simple solution to flavoring your food sans salt is herbs, dried or fresh, ground and whole. I throw whole chunks of ginger with lemongrass and whole basil leaves into a broth and cook for hours on the stove. All that goodness just seeps in, creating bowls of heart love that will make you swoon.  

You know those some of the foods we call aphrodisiacs, or“love foods?” They are precisely the same ones we can consume to strengthen heart health, do these sound familiar:

  • Avocados,

  • Almonds

  • Asparagus

  • Chocolate, yes, even chocolate (choose dark at least 70%). It is both a love drug sending warm fuzzies to our brain waves, and it is a flavonoid-filled antioxidant that fights the damaging free radicals that try to get into our cells and harm us.

If it is indeed true that we are what we eat, and the world joined in on this health campaign, can you imagine the abundance of love this human race would embody? Massive love!

Happy Every-Day-Is-Love-Day Food Athletes!

Be Happy, Be Healthy, Love Your Body,

xo Jessi (Your Food Athlete) x0

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