February is all about the heart, in different ways. This is a slightly expanded version of an article I wrote for the late Rouge Magazine. Living a heart healthy lifestyle isn't all about what's on your plate...
As a health coach, people's first questions to me are most often food related...which is understandable. Quandaries such as, "what foods are good for my heart and cardiovascular system?" will arise. The easy, and quickest, response would be a concise list of things like salmon (Omega 3s!), whole grains, nuts, apples, greens....detoxifying foods and increased fiber to clean out the blood...even cayenne and garlic are considered good for the cardiovascular system (you want to keep it warm). Please eat real, whole foods (no industrial oils like margarine or vegetable shortening). Of course exercise is also important...keep that heart pumping! I can even suggest that you take a look at your stress levels, add in some yoga or mediation to your day. All these things are helpful and true, but what you might not expect me to suggest is that you also eat mindfully, with gratitude. Furthermore, I might ask how much Joy is in your heart? How much love to you take in and give out? When we are interested in improving our health, no matter how specific the concern, we need to address our whole being. There are usually emotional/spiritual issues going on as well. You can Nurture your heart by creating a joyful and loving life...not just by what goes on your plate.
Winter Apple Walnut Salad
- 5-6 small apples cut into bite-size pieces
- Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
- 8 oz. Dried Figs, cut in half
- Handful dried cranberries
- Handful dried dates, chopped
- 1 T cocoa nibs
- 4 oz. Raw walnuts
- Sea Salt
- 2 oz. Good Quality Goat Cheese (optional)
- Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Toss the apples with a splash of AC vinegar to prevent browning (you can also use lemon juice), then mix with dates, cranberries, figs and cocoa nibs. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan with a little sea salt and add to fruit mixture. Mix in the goat cheese (if you are using it) to lightly coat and season to taste with cinnamon and cayenne.
- Research suggests that the antioxidant flavonoid compounds found in apples, such as quercetin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, kaempferol etc., help prevent the “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and building plaque in the arteries. Apples also contain pectin, which is a soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol.
- Walnuts are full of vitamins, minerals, and Omega 3s, which have an anti-clotting effect so the blood flows freer. Omega 3's also lower triclycerides.
- It has been discovered that eating small mounts of quality dark chocolate can have a blood-thinning effect, which can benefit cardiovascular health.
- Cayenne pepper helps reduce and prevent factors that lead to blood clots, which can help reduce the chance of a heart attack. It also helps keep blood pressure levels normalized and balances LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the body.