Heart disease is not a man’s disease. It indiscriminately affects women as well as men. In fact, researchers say cardiovascular diseases claim the lives of nearly half a million women every year.
That’s why Cotton Candy is raising awareness and helping women take the steps to having a healthy heart. Registered Dietitian and founder of NYC’s Pure Nutrition Christian Henderson gives us fives foods that offer some proven, heart-health benefits.
No.1 Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids may reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke, reducing plaque build-up in arteries, lowering triglycerides, increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, decreasing inflammation, and reducing blood pressure.
Tip: Try adding chia seeds to smoothies, sprinkling on yogurt, or making a bowl of chia pudding.
Vanilla Chia Pudding
3 tablespoon chia seeds
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stevia to taste (Try NuNaturals or Sweet Leaf)
Combine all ingredients and let sit for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally.
No. 2 Beets
Beets are a source of betaine, a nutrient that has been shown to lower levels of homocysteine in the blood, high levels of which are associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Betaine also supports liver detoxification.
Tip: If the peeling and roasting of beets is daunting, look for precooked beets, such as those by Love Beets in the produce section of your grocery store.
No. 3 Chili Peppers
Chili peppers contain the powerful chemical capsaicin. Capsaicin may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglycerides, preventing platelet formation and decreasing the risk of blood clots. Other benefits include increasing satiety and boosting metabolism (i.e. weight loss), decreased risk of certain cancers and reduced occurrence of stomach ulcers.
Tip: Turn up the heat and reduce your risk of heart disease by adding hot peppers, such as jalapenos, to your favorite recipes for guacamole, tuna salad, vegetable soup or your other favorite dishes.
No. 4 Oatmeal
Oats contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan. Beta-glucan has been shown in studies to effectively lower total blood cholesterol therefore decreasing the risk of developing heart disease. High blood cholesterol levels lead to a build up of plaques in blood vessel walls. That build up can lead to decreased blood volume to the heart. If the plaque ruptures and then breaks off, it can cause a blood clot elsewhere in the body, possibly resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
Tip: Traditionally prepared oatmeal is a great way to get a healthy dose of beta-glucan. For those who are looking for a new spin on oatmeal, try this no-cook method below.
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoon chia seeds
¾-1 cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Stevia or maple syrup to taste
Combine ingredients, stir, and let sit in fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Add toppings of choice, such as chopped nuts or dried fruit, when ready to eat.
No. 5 Blueberries
Blueberries are a true superfood, especially when it comes to heart health. Including blueberries as part of one’s daily diet has been shown to improve blood cholesterol, i.e. reduce total cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol, and lower triglycerides. Also, due to their high level of antioxidants eating blueberries will help protect cholesterol from oxygen damage that can lead to clogging of the blood vessels, therefore increased the risk of heart disease.
Tip: Blueberries provide the greatest health benefit when eaten fresh, not cooked and organic. Add to a smoothie, make a coconut yogurt parfait, or eat them like popcorn.
Written by: Christian Henderson
Christian Henderson, founder of the Manhattan-based private practice Pure Nutrition, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Nutritionist. Partnering with clients she creates personalized and unique healthy eating plans focusing on high quality, whole foods, recognizing individual differences in lifestyle, body, and food preferences.