By: Rebecca Coleman, RD
Valentine’s Day typically involves sweet treats – be it candy, chocolate or baked goods. This year, shower your loved ones with heart healthy goodies instead.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. The good news – a study at Harvard found that 200,000 heart disease and stroke deaths are preventable each year through lifestyle changes.
February, American Heart Month, is the perfect time to make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of good heart health such as adding exercise to your daily routine, scheduling a visit to talk to your doctor about your heart and increasing healthy eating.
This year, on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year, consider showing your love by whipping up one, or more, of these five treats that are sure to make the heart happy.
- Make their heart ‘beet.’ You may have heard that reducing your sodium is beneficial for your heart, but did you know that your intake of potassium is just as important? While sodium is known for its ability to increase blood pressure, potassium helps reduce those effects by increasing sodium excretion in urine and easing tension in your blood vessel walls. Instead of showing your love through just any baked good, try these Chocolate Beet Cupcakes. Not only do the beets add a perfect pop of red color, they supply an additional 200 mg potassium into your diet.
- Tell them you’re nuts about them. Nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, and macadamia nuts, contain a good source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients have many heart-healthy benefits; fiber has cholesterol-lowering effects, while omega-3 acids can decrease triglycerides and reduce risk of irregular heartbeat. As always, portion size is important when it comes to nuts, so aim for a 1-1.5 ounce serving per day. This Pistachio Crusted Tuna Steak recipe is perfect for a special Valentine’s Day dinner.
- Invite them to tea. A 2012 study showed that black and green tea may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 10 to 20 percent. Other research has suggested that the antioxidants in green tea also work to lower cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis, and that black tea may reduce triglycerides and blood pressure. This year, give your loved ones the gift of health by sharing a cup of Tangy Cranberry Tea with them.
- The more green the better. Green avocado that is. This green fruit is unique because it’s the only fruit that contains a type of fat known as monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats can improve your total cholesterol and LDL, or bad cholesterol, levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Give your loved one some extra care by blending avocado into a breakfast smoothie, adding fresh slices to a sandwich or whipping up a batch of Key Lime Mousse for dessert.
- Get romantic with red. Red is everywhere in February, and the color is commonly associated with romance and love. But this year, touch your loved one’s heart with pomegranates. Pomegranates are chock-full of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to reduce blood clotting, cholesterol and blood pressure. Start dinner with this tasty Spinach and Pomegranate Salad.
Show your love this February (and all year long) with these heart healthy treats.
About the Author: Rebecca Coleman, RD, is a registered dietitian and Health and Wellness Coordinator in the Wellness Department at Priority Health. She is passionate about helping families and individuals improve their health through nutrition education and nutritious food access. Rebecca is certified in adult weight management and has a background in both clinical nutrition and wellness programming.