A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart

Most According to the Canadian Provincial Health Services Authority, February is Heart Month, which makes sense since it contains Valentine’s Day on the 14th.  Maintaining a healthy heart, that amazing organ continuously beating in your chest from birth until death, generally unnoticed, is important to your present and future well being.  A strong ticker delivers oxygenated blood to the other organs of your body.  If it isn’t working to full capacity, then nothing else will either.

Undeniably, without our precious heart organ beating away in our chests, life as we know it ceases to exist.  Fortunately, there are a huge number of lifestyle adjustments we can make to ensure a healthy heart.  Enjoying the benefits of a vigorous heart for all the decades of your life is easy with a bit of effort.

  1. Eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. No one died from eating too many vegetables (as far as I know).  A plant-based diet provides a high antioxidant and bioflavonoid intake, the ingredients that help your body prevent heart disease.
  2. Opt for brown rice and grainy bread as opposed to the white, overly-processed breads. White bread products lack fibre.
  3. Incorporate oily fish varieties into your diet as omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to be heart-healthy. Salmon and tuna are great choices.
  4. I am a self-confessed salt-addict and my heart could be suffering because a high-salt diet can increase blood pressure, adversely affecting the heart. Herbs and spices are the ideal, flavourful alternatives.
  5. Drink alcohol in moderation (or not at all, if that’s your thing).
  6. Reduce sugar intake, or try organic, unpasteurized honey instead of white sugar in your coffee and tea. Honey also has antioxidant properties as well as immune-boosting benefits.
  7. Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids from your diet. Most trans fats are found in fried foods, baked goods, and processed food products that have hydrogenated vegetable oils added.  Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while lowering HDL cholesterol, which greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  8. Reduce or eliminate saturated fats from your diet. This type of fat is primarily found in animal derived foods, such as dairy and certain nuts.  This type of high-fat diet increases levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, consequently raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  9. Keep your meat consumption low and replace some of your meat with more poultry, fish, eggs or beans. Doing so increases your fibre and nutrient intake while keeping saturated fat intake lower.
  10. Increase your intake of fibre. In addition to fruits and vegetables, stock up on heart healthy nuts like almonds and walnuts, seeds, and legumes, along with whole grains to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

A heart healthy snack that has been around since 1885, popcorn also satisfies our craving for crunch.  Going without butter seems wrong to me, so I go with option B and use grass fed butter as a topping.  Grass fed butter is also a healthier than the margarine and other hydrogenated oil butter options.  Hydrogenated oil has been proven to be extremely bad for consumption:

“Hydrogenated oil is a man-made food substance that is used widely throughout the food supply for its cost efficiency and technical advantages.  Also known as trans fats, these oils have become more known for their damaging health effects.  Many scientists and health professional believe trans fats are so dangerous they should be banned from the food supply.”

Get in the habit of reading the ingredient list on many popular grocery store items, which are coincidentally well-advertised.  You may be shocked to see how often you see hydrogenated oil listed.

And just to get you started on the popcorn, here’s a savoury recipe that should satisfy some cravings for tasty snacks.

Happy Heart Savoury Popcorn:

As much air popped organic (non-GMO) popcorn as you desire (around 12 cups, popped)
60-70 ml butter (preferably grass-fed)
30 ml parmesan cheese
3 ml oregano
3 ml basil
3 ml garlic salt
½ ml crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Melt butter in small pan over low heat.  Stir in seasoning for one minute.  In a large bowl, pour over popcorn and gently toss.  Sprinkle with parmesan.  Toss again to coat.  Crunch away!