In my January webinar I shared 9 foods to eat more in 2019 and today I’m taking things one step further by sharing five more foods that you should add your shopping list in February (because it is heart month after all).
I don’t use these lists as an opportunity to recommend obscure, expensive and hard-to-find items. Instead I feature tried and true, budget-friendly basics that can be found at almost any grocery store because this is where you can have the most impact; with the stuff that you throw in your cart week to week and the habits that you build over time.
Here is my list of five foods to eat more this month (and every month) for the benefit of your heart and your tastebuds along with recipes for incorporating each of them!
Did you know that potatoes are seriously high in potassium? Like more than double what you’ll find in a banana (bananas get all of the potassium love). Potassium is an important mineral for heart health as it can decrease blood pressure in those with hypertension. Studies also suggest that higher potassium intake is associated with a lower risk of stroke!
It’s time to stop banning white potatoes from your diet because you “heard they were bad”. While they do have a relatively high glycemic index, pairing them with protein and fats will slow down the digestion and absorption process.
If that weren’t convincing enough, potatoes are also high in both fiber (which has well-established heart health benefits) and vitamin C.
Tips for cooking with white potatoes
Fish is such a nutritional rockstar and the fatty varieties like salmon, tuna and trout have even more heart health benefits because of the bonus of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are all considered “essential” because the body doesn’t produce them. ALA is the plant source (think flax seed, chia, walnuts, soy) while DHA and EPA are found in fish and seafood. The body can convert ALA to DHA and EPA but not efficiently, which is why there is so much discussion around the importance of consuming fish (or an appropriate supplement, if necessary).
Interestingly, the research shows that fish seems to have some sort of total nutrient package that has positive outcomes on heart health that omega-3 supplements can’t replicate.
Tips for cooking with fatty fish
Berries in general show benefit on heart health but blueberries are the standouts because of their anthocyanin content, which is a type of flavonoid that has anti-inflammatory effects and protects against oxidative stress.
I also love how versatile blueberries are! Besides eating straight up when they’re in season, I always keep a bag of the frozen blueberries on hand for adding to smoothies and oatmeal bowls.
Tips for including more blueberries
Peanut Butter Blueberry Oats (via Leanne Ray Nutrition)
Wild Blueberry Banana Spinach Power Smoothie (via Ambitious Kitchen)
Blueberry Farro Salad with Creamy Fresh Herb Dressing (via Leanne Ray Nutrition)
Pumpkin Seeds (pepitas)
Almonds usually get all of the love in this category and while there is plenty of research to support their heart health benefits, why not mix things up and try out pumpkin seeds?
Eating a variety of seeds throughout the week provides a healthy dose of protein, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, fiber and several important minerals like calcium and potassium. Pumpkin seeds are the highest in magnesium, which is a mineral that gets a lot of attention in CVD (cardiovascular disease) research for its role in blood sugar regulation and maintaining the heart’s electrical rhythm.
Tips for including more pepitas in your diet
Favorite Green Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Pepitas (via Cookie + Kate)
Butternut Squash, Kale, and Crunchy Pepitas Tacos (via Epicurious)
Quinoa Mango Black Bean Salad with Smoky Pepitas and Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette (via Vanilla and Bean)
Clearly I saved the best for last! I couldn’t find any hard and fast rules for labeling but dark chocolate typically refers to chocolate that is at least 65% cocoa. This article was also helpful in differentiating between various types of chocolate including white, milk, bittersweet, semisweet and dark!
In regards to the benefits, there’s evidence that suggests that moderate amounts of dark chocolate (i.e. more isn’t better) leads to improved vascular function, reduced blood pressure, and improved insulin sensitivity. This is all related to the flavonoid content of the cocoa beans! An appropriate amount is about an ounce or so. If you like something sweet after meals, why not try a square of dark chocolate so you can reap some nutritional benefits too?
Tips for including dark chocolate
Energy Boosting Trail Mix with Toasted Coconut and Dark Chocolate (via Kristine’s Kitchen)
Chunky Monkey Zucchini Banana Muffins (via Ambitious Kitchen)
Salted Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bark (via Lively Table)
I would love to hear which of these foods (if any) will be new additions to your shopping list and how you plan to use them — leave me a comment!
Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816263/
Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3042791/
Consumption of plant seeds and cardiovascular health: epidemiological and clinical trial evidence. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3745769/
Magnesium helps the heart keep it’s mettle. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/magnesium-helps-the-heart-keep-its-mettle
Daily consumption of chocolate rich in flavonoids decreases cellular genotoxicity and improves biochemical parameters of lipid and glucose metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6225491/
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