Although primary foods, the aspects of life that nourish our souls, are most important to heart health, a diet of whole grains, dark leafy greens and healthy fats is vital to the strength and vigor of your heart. If you think about it, your heart is an amazing organ responsible for pumping and circulating nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to the cells that need it as well as whisking away blood with cellular waste to the liver, lungs, spleen, kidneys and other areas of the body that assist with the purification process. You can’t live without your heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart also controls consciousness, spirit, sleep, memory and houses the mind. As you may have gathered, there is a deep connection between the heart and nervous system.
There are many nutritional studies demonstrating that heart and nervous system conditions are related to calcium metabolism. Alcohol, coffee, excess protein consumption, marijuana, refined flour, refined sugars and refined salts interfere with calcium absorption. In addition, magnesium, one of the most vital minerals for your heart, works in tandem with calcium to keep your blood flowing, your muscles working properly and your bones strong and healthy. Magnesium can dilate coronary arteries and normalize the heartbeat and blood pressure. Magnesium and calcium are both found in dark leafy greens and blackstrap molasses. Other sources of magnesium include whole grains, seeds, beans, nuts and fish. Calcium is also found in sesame seeds and dairy products. One of your best sources of calcium and magnesium is Granny’s mineral-rich bone stocks.
Other foods that are helpful to the heart are garlic, onions, flax seed oil and wild, oily fish such as
salmon. Foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus, leafy greens, strawberries and cantaloupe raise your HDL levels (“good” cholesterol) and keeps your arteries supple. Vitamin E rich foods such as leafy greens and seeds help to protect against the formation of plaque and reduce total cholesterol. Be sure to switch your salt to a high mineral sea salt. Contact me for recommendations as not all sea salts are equal. I personally use Celtic Sea Salt which has roughly half the sodium of refined table salt and over 80 minerals.
So what about fats? Skip the refined vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, safflower and
sunflower and choose more stable, heart healthy fats such as organic, grass-fed butter (raw if you can source some), coconut oil and olive oil. Some flax seed oil and sesame oil are also helpful in the diet as well. Studies are beginning to show that many vegetable oils in the diet disrupt your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio which creates inflammation in the body. Heart conscious people tend to shy away from saturated fats which is a shame as they maintain the integrity of our cell membranes in the brain and elsewhere. When we consume too many polyunsaturated fats and limit our saturated fat intake, our cells become flimsy and don’t work properly. Saturated fats also protect our livers from toxins and provide the heart with energy during times of stress.
If you are interested in hearing the other side of the saturated fat and cholesterol, controversy, check out the the following articles.
Of course, your heart needs plenty of oxygen so exercise is a must! Exercise combined with quality whole foods and stress management techniques will keep your heart healthy for some time.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!
In honor of the big day, I thought I’d share a recipe with you that I created last night. It was a soup full of flavor, beta-carotene and other powerful anti-oxidants. I call it, SunCarBochaSnip Soup. You’re thinking, what the hell is that, Kim? Well, it’s a yummy soup I concocted using sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), carrots, Kabocha squash and parsnips. Hey, it’s what was in the fridge last night! As I was chopping these beauties, I realized that with all of this fiber, it must be a damn good soup for the heart – and the gut, too. So, I roasted them and turned them into a tasty, warming soup.
Want to know why these winter veggies are heart healthy?
Well, let’s start with our sunchoke friends. Full of inulin and fructooligosaccharides, these sunflower and artichoke relatives serve as a great pre-biotic for the healthy gut flora. Basically, pre-biotics feed the good bacteria, also known as probiotics, in your intestines which allows your digestive system to flow and work properly. Also, studies show that inulin helps your heart by lowering blood glucose, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. It’s also helpful with preventing the growth of certain cancers. One final note on this most romantic day of the year, Dr. K. M. Nadkarni, author of the Indian Materia Medica, says that sunchokes are an aphrodisiac and enhancer of semen production! Who knew?
Carrots of course are full of carotenoids which are amazing antioxidants that prevent cancer. They too can help with lowering blood sugar levels and their coumarin content can help prevent blood clotting. Of course this amazing root vegetable is important to eye health, lung health and the health of the body’s other surface tissues (such as the gut lining). If you believe in food energetics, this makes sense. Carrots are roots that are soothing to the digestive system and soak up nutrients for the carrot plant. The digestive system does the same for us which supports the theory that carrots are good for the gut! Anything that is good for the gut, is good for the heart, too.
Full of fiber and vitamin C, winter squash such as Kabocha are a great way to incorporate sweetness in your diet without the refined sugars. Dr. Thomas Levey, Board Certified Cardiologist and author of Stop America’s #1 Killer says the “the lower your vitamin C blood and tissue levels go, the greater your chances of developing significant heart disease.” Like sweet potatoes and carrots, winter squash are also high in carotenoids which protect your body from a variety of cancers. In addition, winter squash are full of potassium which is an important electrolyte for the heart and circulation in the body.
So what about parsnips? These tasty root vegetables are full of fiber and contain about the same amount of calcium as milk. Calcium, of course, is an important mineral essential for heart beat regulation among other things. They are a good source of potassium, too, which is an important heart nutrient. Parsnips are one of my favorite vegetables to add to soup; however, they do impart a strong flavor so keep that in mind.
So, I think you’re ready for the SunCarBochaSnip Soup recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t measure so you’ll have to improvise a bit. Enjoy!
- 1 Kabocha squash (you could substitute any winter squash)
- 5-6 carrots
- 5-6 sunchokes
- 2 parsnips
- 2 onions
- handful of fresh parsley
- stock (homemade is best, but you can also use water or a pre-packaged variety)
- 1 TBSP-ish curry powder
- 1 TBSP-ish paprika
- 1 TBSP-ish cumin
- ½ TBSP-ish chile pepper
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top (optional)
- Slice squash, carrots, sunchokes and parsnips. Place in a dish with a little bit of water and roast in the oven at 375 deg for about 45 minutes. Add some olive oil towards the end.
- Dice the onion and add to a pan with oil (coconut or olive if you keep the heat low). Add the dry the seasonings.
- Add stock or water.
- Add roasted veggies and simmer. Add fresh parsley. Adjust seasonings.
- Puree with an immersion blender.