Heart healthy for Valentine’s Day

As Valentine’s Day approaches the thought of sweet chocolates, wine and dinner come to mind.  There are numerous tasty choices that can have a positive impact on heart health and can tantalize the palate. A Valentine’s meal that includes red wine, salmon, dark green vegetables, a salad using olive oil as a dressing, and dark chocolate fondue with cherries, strawberries, blueberries for dipping can be a very heart smart meal.  An after dinner cup of green tea can provide even more heart healthy nutrients.  These foods are full of compounds known to be high in antioxidants, which are very protective against free radicals.

Antioxidants such as those found in dark pigmented fruits are known to repair free radical damage and are associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases. Some examples of antioxidants include the flavonoids found in fruits like grapes, tart cherries, blueberries, strawberries, green tea, and dark chocolate.  Free radicals are unstable electrons that can damage cells and are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related diseases. Antioxidants stabilize the free radicals opposing its damaging effects.

The dark skinned grapes used to make red wine are very high in many antioxidants, resveratrol being of primary importance.  Lindsay Brown, associate professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland has stated that “Resveratrol may aid in the prevention of age-related disorders, such as neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

The suggested amount of wine is one glass for an adult woman and two glasses for an adult man. Aside of the antioxidant value, red wine has been shown to help raise the HDL (good) cholesterol and lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Salmon and other cold water fish such as mackerel and herring are high in Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s). The human body does not make EFA’s, therefore they must be obtained from the diet.  The EFA’s are made up of EPA and DHA.  EPA is reputed for keeping inflammation at bay.  Inflammation in the heart vessels is a coronary waiting to happen.  The DHA component of the EFA is considered brain food.  It’s an essential nutrient necessary for good health.

A dark green leafy salad with lots of fresh vegetables is bursting with antioxidants, not to mention the high dietary fiber content. Olive oil as a dressing can also help keep cholesterol levels healthy, and as an antioxidant, it can reduce inflammation.

Dark chocolate is the most beneficial type of chocolate to consume.  But, the dark chocolate needs to be 65% cocoa or above.  The dark cocoa contains a specific compound called epicatechin which is a type of plant flavonoid that keeps cholesterol from adhering to the blood vessels, reducing the risk of blood clots, and reducing the amount of inflammation in the arterial walls. Using the dark skinned pigmented fruits dipped in dark chocolate or in a dark chocolate fondue is a perfect dessert.

Green tea has a high antioxidant value.  It has proven to lower LDL’s and raise HDL’s. Antioxidants found in green tea may block the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and promote its excretion from the body.

This is a wonderful dinner menu that is tasty to the palate, full of wonderful nutrients that will benefit the body and are particularly protective of the heart.  Enjoy your meal and eat with purpose to improve and maintain health.

This information is for educational purposes and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment.