February is American Heart Awareness Month and Go Red for Women as we think about our heart (and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching) we find ourselves thinking of LOVE and the qualities of the heart. Nurturing the heart is something we can all do for ourselves. Nourishing your body is something you can do in multiple ways. We will focus primarily on eating, but there are more good things to bring you joy that you can implement but we are not able to focus on all of them at once. Additionally, you would not be able to start all of these things at once. Sometimes, just doing one good thing different makes a great impact.
Our body’s are in need of a garden within. If we think of ourselves as the master gardener we can create the most prolific greenhouse that will nurture and nourish not only our body but our souls. There is so much research on how we can strengthen our hearts with food. In this article you will learn about ways you can nurture your heart with heart healthy eating and massage.
There are so many eating plans out there that tell us what to do to lose weight, but we do not see as many that help us know how to help our hearts. There are many conflicting opinions about what is best depending on who you listen to. There are some who think vegan is best, some say vegetarian, some say keto, some say paleo. None of them say a high fat, processed food and high sugar diet will help us, and yet, that is really the Standard American Diet.
In our clinic we tend to follow the teachings around Functional Medicine. In this methodology they recommend what they refer to as the Pegan Diet. This is a mixture of Pescatarian, Paleo and Vegan. Basically, it is recommended to eat vegetables, fruit, clean sourced meats (organic when possible), and wild caught fish (and the more fish the better) It is important that we take notice of what is on our plate. We will discuss simple things you can do starting today to help your heart. This will not be something that will change your heart overnight if you have some heart issues, but these will be tools that can provide nourishment and improve your health. These tools have been used to help many people have greater function and improvement in their fitness.
- 80% VEGETABLES on your plate, EVERY MEAL – this does not mean iceberg lettuce on your burger. It means we should add vegetables that are high in phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are naturally occurring protective chemicals that are found in foods of plant origin and in plant based diets. They contribute to healthy cell communication. This can trigger detoxification and decrease inflammation. Take advantage of eating the rainbow and fueling your inner garden. Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli, swiss chard, & romaine lettuce. Red, orange and yellow vegetables – such as carrots, peppers, squash, and sweet potatoes. Also of benefit for vegetables are garlic, onions, chives and leeks.
- Eat more BERRIES – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. If you can add goji berries, pure acai, cranberries and pomegranate seeds. These are great for adding in your polyphenols. According to an article from the NIH “Human intervention studies using chokeberries, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries (either fresh, or as juice, or freeze-dried), or purified anthocyanin extracts have demonstrated significant improvements in LDL oxidation, lipid peroxidation, total plasma antioxidant capacity, dyslipidemia, and glucose metabolism.” These specific fruits are all high in polyphenols especially anthocyanins, micronutrients, and fiber. Polyphenols are great because of many things but breaking it down to the basics, they are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant properties.
- INCREASE your healthy fats. Increase means even just adding one time a week is more than what you are already doing. Increasing to daily is best but even 3 times a week is a great improvement. Focus on omega 3 fats – nuts, coconut oil, avocados, and yes, even saturated fat from grass-fed or sustainably raised animals. Increase your fish intake.
- AVOID bad fats – Research published in BMJ, finds that a form of omega-6 fatty acid found in vegetable oils may actually boost heart disease risk. Saturated fats, found in high-fat dairy, meats, and fried foods, as well as trans-fats, found in processed foods such as chips and cookies, should be limited. Experts agree they raise the risk of heart disease. Stay away from most vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, corn, and especially soybean oil.
- CHOCOLATE! Isn’t this what most women want for Valentine’s Day. The important thing to know about this is that not all chocolate is created equal. DARK CHOCOLATE is best for you, over 70% and higher will give you the greatest health benefit. An even better thing is sugar free Dark Chocolate. Brands that are great for this are Hu, Lily’s and Lakanto, these still taste good but eliminate your exposure to the inflammation caused by sugar. Dark chocolate has so many good qualities, it contains heart protective antioxidants called flavonols, it has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and helps to promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. Happiness!
- Eat MEAT or animal products as a CONDIMENT. This goes hand and hand with the 80% Vegetables listed above. Meat should not be our Main Dish, but instead a Side Dish. Choose animal products that are sustainably raised or grass-fed and possibly organic. We make an effort to shop local and are able to get grass-fed, sustainably raised animal sources.
- Limit or even give up SUGAR...this sounds horrid for many. However it is so important to help with systemic inflammation and so much more. Think of sugar as an occasional treat, to be used sparingly, in all its various forms (honey, agave, etc.). Sugar feeds inflammation, candida overgrowth, and infections.
- Our final recommendation for feeding your heart is to nurture your body and soul with a relaxing MASSAGE. Massage plays an important role in heart health, especially for individuals managing cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure and high stress, according to studies conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association. There are so many benefits to massage. The time to relax and unwind is amazing for our hearts. It brings in more oxygen to all our organs through the heart as it pumps it to each organ. Although the heart cannot be massaged directly, it can benefit from the effects of the muscles in your body relaxing. A relaxed heart provides numerous health benefits including lower blood pressure. During the past 10 years, studies have shown consistently that regular massage therapy lowers both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure and the heart rate. Regular massage makes a positive difference for cardiac patients who are recovering from an event such as a stroke, heart attack or heart surgery, also. Additionally, a 2013 International Journal of Preventive Medicine study determined massage therapy helped to control blood pressure in pre-hypertensive women. This study showed that a massage can lower blood pressure for up to 3 days after the massage. Regular massage increases serotonin and dopamine, two hormones that affect our feelings and moods. Whether it’s for Valentine’s Day or every day we all want to have good moods!
Help your heart, nurture your soul and follow our recommendations for food above. And you can also get a massage for yourself and loved one to help their heart.
Give the gift of massage! Currently offering a Couple Massage for a huge discount of $99! That’s a 50 minute massage for you and your loved one, offer good through February, 28th 2020!