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Family Nutrition

February: Eat Your Heart Out

February is not only a great time to share hugs and kisses with a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day - it is also American Heart Month. Did you know that there are certain foods which can contribute to a healthy heart? It’s true! Cross our heart and hope to (not) die!

Last month you may have read our article about eating to create strong blood. This month, American Heart Month, is a good time to take a look at eating to create a strong heart in which that strong blood can flow.

That means eating phytonutrients (FI-toe-NEW-tree-entz). What are those you might wonder? Phytonutrients are the bits and pieces of food that help prevent and repair damage to heart cells. They help raise good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol and in other ways give you the healthy heart you need for a long and healthy life.

Let’s break that down a bit.

Eating Heart Healthy

The phytonutrients you need include:
  • Phytoestrogens found in plants
  • Phytosterols found in nuts and plants
  • Carotenoids found in colorful fruits and veggies
  • Polyphenols found in berries
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish
  • Alpha-linolenic fatty acids found in plants
  • B-complex vitamins found in some nuts and rice
  • Vitamins C and E found in fiber-rich foods
The foods in which you’ll find these precious nutrients are the whole foods you should be eating for a variety of other reasons including maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your organs healthy and providing you with the energy you need for an active lifestyle.

Here’s the best foods to eat for a healthy heart:

  • Acorn squash has beta-carotene and lutein, B-complex and C vitamins, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber.
  • Almonds or walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, mono- and polyunsaturated fats and phytosterols.
  • Asparagus for beta-carotene and lutein, B-complex vitamins, folate and fiber.
  • Black or kidney beans for B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and fiber.
  • Blueberries for beta-carotene and lutein, anthocyanin, ellagic acid, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber.
  • Broccoli for beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber.
  • Brown rice for B-complex vitamins, fiber, niacin, magnesium, and fiber.
  • Cantaloupe has alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, B-complex and C vitamins, folate, potassium and fiber.
  • Carrots have alpha-carotene and fiber.
  • Dark chocolate (yeah!) has resveratrol and cocoa phenols.
  • Flaxseed (ground) for omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and phytoestrogens.
  • Oatmeal packs a punch with omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium and fiber.
  • Oranges for beta-cryptoxanthin (say that three times fast), beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein, flavones, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.
  • Papaya has beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, vitamins C and E, folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
  • Red bell peppers for beta-carotene and lutein, B-complex vitamins, folate, potassium and fiber.
  • Red wine has catechins and resveratrol (flavonoids).
  • Salmon for omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Soy milk for isoflavones, B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phytoestrogens.
  • Spinach has lutein, B-complex vitamins, folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium and fiber.
  • Sweet potatoes have beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E and fiber.
  • Tea has catechins and flavonols.
  • Tofu for niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium
  • Tomatoes have beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.
  • Tuna has omega-3 fatty acids, folate and niacin.
You’ll notice that many of these foods have fiber. Some have anti-cancer nutrients. All of them are good for your heart.

You don’t need to remember the names of all the phytonutrients. Just print this list and bring it with you to the grocery store to help you remember all the heart-healthy foods you should be eating on a regular basis. Your sweetheart will love you for it.

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