This month, show your heart some love!
– By the Veggie Fairy Team
While Valentines are nice, a healthy ticker is even better! February is American Heart Month, and it’s the perfect time to start getting into the habit of keeping heart-healthy foods on hand.
We’ve rounded up our top 10 heart-healthy, local foods, recommended by the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the Cleveland Clinic. Some of these items are available year-round, and some are seasonal, so keep an eye out when you’re browsing our online farmers market. If you put a few of the foods on this list in your Seasonal Roots basket each week, your heart will love you for it!
#1 Dark leafy greens
Leafy greens are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to heart health. Examples include kale, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and watercress. These tasty greens are grown locally all year round and can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Try using these greens in sandwiches instead of lettuce, or mix them up for a heart-healthy salad.
#2 Whole grain items
Opt for whole grains when you can; this applies to items such as pasta, breads, cereals, and crackers. In their original, unprocessed state, whole grains still have the outer layers that contain healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber, plus carbohydrates, protein, and healthy, unsaturated fats. So grains like whole wheat, oats, and kasha provide more heart-healthy fiber than white flour. Bonus: They’re more filling too!
This versatile fruit masquerading as a vegetable can be added to most savory dishes — think salads, pastas, eggs, and sandwiches. In addition to antioxidants, tomatoes are high in potassium, which can help control high blood pressure.
#4 Red, yellow, and orange veggies
Many studies show that carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and acorn squash are packed with carotenoids, fiber, and vitamins that are beneficial for your heart. So cook with color and eat the rainbow!
Legumes in general are great for your circulation, and hummus is chock-full of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), which is a type of legume. The olive oil in hummus is good for your heart, too! A study showed that eating legumes four times a week (compared to once a week) was associated with a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Everybody loves berries, and local berry season is coming soon! Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are rich in fiber and antioxidants, especially when you eat them in season — at their flavorful and nutritional peak. There’s evidence that getting your antioxidant vitamins from food is much more effective and beneficial than getting them from supplements. So go ahead and grab another helping of berries!
If you’ve never cooked with tofu, don’t be intimidated! Try tofu in a flavorful stir-fry with fresh veggies for a heart-healthy lunch or dinner. Research indicates that including more soy foods like tofu in your diet may have cardiovascular benefits, such as lowering blood pressure. The prepared vegan meals in your online farmers market are a super-easy and tasty way to get your tofu, whether your a tofu newbie or a tofu super fan.
According to the NIH, asparagus is filled with mighty nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate, and fiber. This tender, sweet vegetable is delicious when roasted and drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Plus, asparagus only has 25 calories per cup (or about 5 calories per large spear) – win-win!
Crisp, fresh broccoli florets dipped in hummus are an extra powerful snack with a whopping list of heart-healthy nutrients, including vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps lower total and LDL cholesterol levels by binding to bile in the gut (which is made up of cholesterol) and removing it with the body’s waste.
#10 Dark chocolate & red wine
Since this is Cupid’s month, we veggie fairies are happy to report that dark chocolate and red wine are both good for your heart! (Based on personal experience, there are definitely some days when wine and chocolate are really good for mental health, too. Just sayin’…!) The Cleveland Clinic put dark chocolate up against red wine to see if one is better for you than the other. Find out which one was the winner here!
SO IN CONCLUSION…
By eating these foods locally when they’re freshly made or in season, you’re maximizing the nutritional benefits for your heart. Other heart-healthy staples to keep on hand include nuts like almonds and walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, canned or dried legumes, and quinoa (a grain that’s a great source of protein and rich in fiber). So with a clink of our glasses of red wine we say: Here’s to your heart!
ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS
Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.