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    Ask The Chef: Can You Recommend Some Ways to Cook For Heart Health?

    By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef | February 6, 2017

    Can you recommend some ways to cook for heart health?

     

    With cardiovascular disease currently ranking as the leading cause of death in North America, one may assume our control over this devastating health condition is limited. And yet, ever-increasingly, we are becoming more aware of the empowering relationship between heart health and diet. In fact, evidence is rapidly mounting that not only can certain food choices help protect the heart, in many cases these choices can even reverse the severity existing conditions. While I recommend you always talk to your doctor before embarking on a new diet, I am more than happy to share with you some of the most-studied cooking techniques to promote a healthy heart.

     

    I would be remiss if I didn’t begin our discussion with the motivating teachings found in The China Study, by Colin Campbell. Released in 2005, this revolutionary book is centered around the findings of a 20-year-long study (conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, Cornell University, and the University of Oxford) that looked at the relationship of dietary habits of different cultures and their corresponding mortality rates. Spoiler alert: the research clearly indicates that pursuing a plant-based diet can significantly improve mortality, and dramatically enhance cardiovascular health, especially. With more recent follow-up studies confirming this exciting fact over and over again, it seems as though the very best diet for heart heath is a primarily whole foods and plant-based one (and if fighting a pre-existing condition, preferably it should also be low in added fat, salt, and sugar). If this structure doesn’t conjure up any immediate meal inspiration, take a look around at our recipe bank – you may be surprised at how many of the delicious recipes naturally fall within this category!

     

    Additionally, there are a great number of specific foods and superfoods which have been directly studied for their cardiovascular benefits. For example, foods that are high in soluble fiber, such as oats, whole wheat, and chia, are known to help lower cholesterol. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds and pepitas, are also cholesterol-friendly thanks to their significant levels of plant sterols and unsaturated fats. And many superfoods contain valuable antioxidants that improve blood flow, artery flexibility, and heart efficiency, such as pomegranate, maqui, acai, and mulberries. (Do note that although our favorite “super” berries have the largest stores of antioxidants, all berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, offer protective benefits, too.) My personal favorite heart-healthy superfood? Why, that would have to be cacao, whose intensive flavonoid content has been well studied for its prevention of blood clots as well as improving blood flow.

     

    So, if you’re transitioning into a heart-healthy diet, keep these three takeaway’s in mind: first, stay away from animal products (especially red meat, poultry, and dairy) and incorporate as many whole plant based foods (like vegetables, grains, and legumes) as possible. Second, be mindful of your quantity of added fat, salt, and sugar, and omit, reduce, or replace these ingredients with healthier options whenever possible. And third, add in heart-healthy superfoods that are packed with fiber, plant sterols, and cardiovascular-friendly antioxidants. Follow these guidelines and you are well on your way to support, enhance, and protect your body with excitingly marked improvements over time.