February is National Heart Health Month, the perfect time to take simple steps to improve health!
The good news is that taking the initiative to improve heart health at any age doesn’t have to be complicated and can help you feel more energetic. Dr. Corey, a naturopath doctor from Thrive on Life in Michigan, focuses on disease prevention through diet, exercise and stress management - which all impact the heart. She teaches wellness seminars online and in person at The Better Health stores throughout Michigan. Michigan Cardiologist and author Dr. Joel Kahn said the steps you take to improve your heart’s strength are good for the entire body and mind, as balanced meals and light exercise help us maintain healthy weight and improve mental well-being.
First, Kahn says that we choose whether to move or remain sedentary every day. Movement is crucial and can help with stress management which is good for the heart.
“Choose movement when you can,” Khan says. “Whether it’s a chair exercise or getting up and walking around the house.” Check with your doctor on how to start if you need. Other exercise ideas include treadmill, stationary bike, swimming, light weights and yoga. Getting moving doesn’t have to be over-complicated.
“Think 150 minutes of movement a week,” The American Heart Association recommends.
Feed Your Heart
Both Dr. Corey and Dr. Khan say increasing vegetables and whole grains and reducing junk food, more important than most of us want to admit. Adding plant-based, whole foods, healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil and fresh avocados into your menu, your heart and mind will thank you, Khan said.
Dr. Corey said avoiding too much fried and processed foods and replacing them with fresh ingredients can include:
● Leafy green vegetables like Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, Romaine Lettuce
● Whole Grains and Oats
● Berries, specifically blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
● Avocados, for protein and monounsaturated fats
● Fish, salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna for heart-happy omega-3 fatty acids.
● Small portions (palm-size handfuls) of walnuts for omega-3s can replace fish if you want to lean more toward plant-based dishes. Walnuts are also great for fiber intake.
● Beans, such as black beans in tacos, kidney beans in chili or white beans in a salad.·
● Dark chocolate - it’s National Chocolate Month, so enjoy chocolate that is more than 70 percent cocoa for the best antioxidants! Wine, In moderation, may help prevent coronary artery disease and help with brain health too
● Green Tea has been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels
● Garlic - Great for blood pressure. Add it to your pasta!
● Organic Mushrooms, Rich in the B vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid.
The following is a healthy heart recipe to enjoy any day:
Bean, Mushroom and Barley Salad Roll-Ups
This can be a hearty salad enough for a whole meal or rolled into warm tortillas.
● 15-ounce can no-salt-added kidney beans, drained
● 15-ounce can no-salt-added black-eyed peas, drained
● 1 1⁄2 cups cooked barley
● 6 tablespoons cilantro or parsley, chopped finely
● 1 cup fresh, organic mushrooms, sliced and thoroughly washed
● 1 & 1⁄2 cups frozen corn
● 1 & 1⁄2 cups tomatoes, diced
● ⅓ cup chopped unsalted fresh walnuts
● 2 cups dark green leafy lettuce, washed
● 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
● 2 tablespoons olive oil
● Pepper to taste
● Soft tortilla shells- optional
Cook the barley as directed. Steam the corn. Mix all ingredients and serve fresh. You warm a tortilla on a frying pan or microwave and roll ingredients into it for another option. You can even put it on a taco! Store in airtight containers - makes 6 servings
Don’t forget your dark chocolate for dessert! Here’s to happy hearts!