By Sammy Caiola
You’ll be seeing a lot of hearts this week. Most of them will be on seasonal cookies in the office kitchen, in your child’s Valentine’s Day candy bags or in the windows of restaurants offering luxurious dinners. But before you get lost in the swirl of heart-shaped chocolate and frosting, take a brief minute to think about your actual heart. You know, the one that looks like this:
Native Foods Cafe uses this image courtesy of cardioanatomy.tumblr.com.
February is by no coincidence American Heart Month, and it’s a perfect time to start revamping your diet toward something that’s good for your heart AND your soul (hint: fruits, veggies and plant-based foods are a great place to start).
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women, according to the Center for Disease Control, and about 600,000 people die from heart disease each year (that’s one in four deaths).
The most common form of heart disease for Americans is coronary artery disease, which is when plaque builds up in the arteries and restricts blood supply to the heart. Artery blockage can lead to heart attacks, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
So how do we avoid it? Well, eating foods with minimal fat, saturated fat and cholesterol is a good start. Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet is also known to make the heart happier, as is increasing intake of fiber. Here at Native, we use plant-based oil and seasonings from the earth to make our food taste good, not artery blockers like meat, butter and cheese.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends hearty doses of leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, as well as broccoli, tomatoes and cabbage. Lucky for you, Native’s Caribbean Jerk Kale Salad will have you hooked on at least one heart-healthy veggie, thanks to the jalapeno cilantro dressing and shredded coconut on top. I could eat that salad every day. You should also check out the OC Raw Chopper for a dose of cabbage, beets and sprouts. Both of these salads are great inspirations for colorful meals to make at home.
Native Foods Caribbean Jerk Kale Salad.
When it comes to grains, oatmeal is the big winner for heart health, but whole grain cereal with soy or almond milk works too. Ditch white rice and regular pasta, which have very little nutritional value, for some Native favorites like brown rice and quinoa.
I know, I know. Eating healthy around Valentine’s is almost impossible. If you’re sweet tooth is bugging you, just hop down to Native for a chocolate cupcake, made with trans-fat free veggie shortening and no milk or eggs. And if you’re looking for something to eat at home, try some sweet dried fruits like blueberries, or nuts covered in dark chocolate.
When it comes down to it, there’s no reason to overload on sugar this week. Valentine’s Day should be about showing people how much you care. And if you really care about someone, you want to keep them healthy, not offer him or her foods that will ultimately hurt them. So go out or stay in, but make sure whatever you make with your sweetie this week is something fresh, flavorful and from the heart.
Native Foods Cafe uses this image courtesy of cok.net.
Native Foods Cafe, vegan restaurant, vegan food, heart healthy, February heart health month