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10 Heart-Healthy Foods Your Body Will Love

dish of avocado salad with arugula tomatoes  black olives and bread

by Susan Bowerman

Most people don’t need an excuse to party, but in case you need an official reason to celebrate, February doesn’t disappoint. Sure, there’s the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, but we also have Groundhog Day and Presidents’ Day. And in case you didn’t mark your calendars, February is also National Heart Health Month. You probably don’t want to celebrate this holiday with pizza and buffalo wings. So, instead, why not show everyone that you’ve got a heart of gold by preparing a delicious heart-healthy meal?

First, if you intend to drink alcohol, make a toast to your good health with a glass of champagne. Not only is champagne festive, but a glass of bubbly contains polyphenols—naturally occurring compounds found in grapes that affect the body’s regulation of blood flow and blood pressure.  We don’t recommend you drink alcohol to get polyphenols for this purpose, but maybe thinking about them this way will remind you that you should find healthful sources of polyphenols in your diet.

Next, start your meal with a colorful salad. Bright orange carrots, red tomatoes and deep green spinach owe their colors to carotenoids. These are a group of antioxidant pigments that help the heart by inhibiting the oxidation of the ‘bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood, a key step in the development of atherosclerosis.

Don’t stop there, though. Toss some avocado into your salad for a bonus. Carotenoids are also fat-soluble, so avocado’s healthy fat helps your body absorb these beneficial compounds. Even better, add some beans to your salad. Their water-soluble fiber helps to keep cholesterol levels in check.

For your entrée, grill up some fresh fish. Fish is one of the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help to keep certain fats in the blood within normal range (like triglycerides and cholesterol). And that can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Let yourself go “a little nuts.” Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios are rich in substances called phytosterols, which help to lower cholesterol. Toast nuts lightly to bring out their natural flavor and then sprinkle them over salads or veggies.

There’s no better finish to a great meal than a bit of chocolate. Naturally occurring compounds in cocoa called flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that fight free radical damage and help protect the heart. The darker and more bittersweet the chocolate, the better it is for you. So, enjoy a bit of dark chocolate, or drizzle some melted bittersweet chocolate over fresh berries for a doubly healthy dessert. Berries get their beautiful red-purple colors from anthocyanins, natural pigments that act as antioxidants, too.  We don’t recommend sweets as a regular part of your diet because of the sugar they contain, but as with polyphenols, thinking about antioxidants in your desserts might help you remember to pay attention to them as part of your diet.

I’ll admit that National Heart Health Month isn’t exactly a “cards and flowers” occasion, but why not celebrate anyway? It’s a perfect time to feature heart-healthy foods in a delicious, healthy meal that you and your loved ones can literally “eat to your heart’s content.”

For more tips on healthy eating and nutrition, visit I Am Herbalife Nutrition.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips to Reduce Body Fat and Improve your Heart Health

woman with meter and bowl of salad for control weight

by Susan Bowerman

Here’s why keeping your weight in check is so important for heart health, and how a heart-healthy diet can help you control your weight.

February is American Heart Month, which is why we’re focusing this month on heart health. A “heart-healthy” diet can help you to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. That’s important, because carrying too much body fat—especially around your midsection—may increase your risk for heart disease.

Why Excess Body Fat Affects Heart Health

The larger and heavier you are, the harder your heart has to work. As you gain body fat, your body has to develop additional tiny blood vessels in order to supply oxygen and nutrients to the fat cells. But more blood vessels means an increased workload for your heart, because—in order for the blood to reach all of your cells—your heart has to work harder, and it takes more blood pressure, too.

Where you carry your fat also makes a difference. The fat that lies around the abdomen (often referred to as “belly fat”) is different from the fat deposits you have in other parts of your body. An excess of body fat that collects around your midsection and internal organs is associated with an increased risk for heart disease—in part, because of influences on blood pressure and levels of fats in the bloodstream.

Carrying extra weight can also affect your heart health in another important yet less direct way. Many people complain that excess weight makes it difficult or uncomfortable to exercise—which, of course, is so important to heart health, weight management and overall health and well-being.

Diet and Lifestyle to Control Weight and Promote Heart Health

  • Enjoy a healthy, well-balanced diet. It’s no secret that a healthy, well-balanced diet is important to good health. But it bears repeating that eating the right foods—and not eating too much —is key to weight management, which in turn helps promote heart health.
    •  Low-fat proteins from a combination of plant and animal sources will help keep saturated fat intake down, while satisfying hunger at the same time. They’re also going to be the lowest calorie choices, too. Plant-proteins are naturally cholesterol-free, and seafood provides heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA.
    •  Colorful fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, should be your go-to carbohydrates. They’re nutrient-rich, yet relatively low in calories, which makes them the best choices for meeting your carbohydrate needs. Their fiber and water content help to fill you up, and adequate intake of certain fibers—such as the soluble fiber found in foods like apples, oats and beans—are associated with lower levels of cholesterol in the blood, as long as you stick to a low-fat diet. And when you focus on these “good” carb sources, you’ll wind up eating fewer foods that have a lot of sugar and refined carbs, which can rack up calories quickly.
    •  Small amounts of healthy fats, such as a sprinkle of nuts, a drizzle of olive oil or a few slices of avocado, can boost flavor and nutrition in calorie-controlled meals. Using fats thoughtfully and sparingly will help you with calorie-control, since fats are more calorie-dense than either proteins or carbohydrates.
  • Exercise regularly. Cardiovascular exercise—exercise that boosts your breathing and heart rate—promotes heart health in a number of ways. Like any other muscle, your heart responds positively to exercise, becoming more efficient at pumping blood and delivering oxygen to your tissues. You also burn calories while you exercise, which can help in your weight-loss efforts, as well as to maintain a healthy body weight. Regular exercise also helps keep blood pressure under control and is a great stress-reliever. Keeping both blood pressure and stress levels in check is important to the health of your heart.

For more tips on healthy eating and nutrition, visit I Am Herbalife Nutrition.