Rise and shine, Valentine! Whether you’re single or coupled, love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to think about your heart. It’s no accident that February was chosen as American Heart Month back in the 1960s — while we’re inundated with sweet red hearts for the holiday, it’s a good reminder to be sweet to our own hearts, too.
Food can be an invaluable asset in the quest for heart health, so in honor of this international day of love, we rounded up a few delectable options that are good for the heart and the soul:
Just a single sip of red wine and ahhhhhh…you can practically feel your blood pressure go down. And it’s not all in your head! Drinking red wine on the reg has been associated with higher levels of HDL cholesterol — that’s the “good” kind of cholesterol that removes plaque buildup in the arteries, paving the way to lower blood pressure. Red wine also contains high concentrations of an antioxidant called resveratrol from the skins of red grapes, which is thought to strengthen the lining of the blood vessels around the heart. Cheers to that.
Source: The Vitamin Shoppe
For those hours of the day when it’s not so socially acceptable to drink wine, sip on some pomegranate juice instead! The ancient Greeks believed that the one and only Aphrodite planted the first pomegranate, and if it’s good enough for the goddess of love, it’s good enough for us. Like red wine, pure pomegranate juice is rich with antioxidizing flavonols, which naturally combat free radicals and reduce inflammation. Just a few ounces a day can help you lower your blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, which will make your heart very happy indeed.
How did chocolate become associated with self-indulgence? We call it…self-care. A few squares of decadent dark chocolate can take the edge off of any bad day, and they can also provide your body with an impressive dose of health benefits. Cacao contains a dense supply of antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonols — some studies suggest even more than açai berries! Those antioxidants disarm the negative properties of free radicals like radiation and carcinogens, protecting your body in the process.
The trick with dark chocolate is to select a variety with a high percentage of cacao (preferably 70% or above) that doesn’t include alkali in the list of ingredients. Alkalizing is a traditional Dutch chocolate preparation technique, but it effectively reduces natural flavonol levels.
Omega-3s are a must in any heart-healthy diet, but if you’re tired of tilapia, treat yourself to something a little more luxurious! These mollusks contain more inflammation-fighting omega-3s than tuna, lobster, and cod, and they make any meal feel extra special.
Psst…oysters are also rumored to be an aphrodisiac, if you’re looking for that sort of thing. The legendary ladies’ man Casanova claimed to eat 50 raw oysters for breakfast every day as he wooed his way across Europe.
What could be sweeter than honey? Knowing that honey is good for the heart! This tasty treat is equally popular in our culture as a sweetener and a term of endearment, and recent studies suggest that it also contains as many heart-healthy antioxidants by volume as some fruits and vegetables! Honey can lower triglycerides and counteract LDL cholesterol — that’s the bad kind — both of which can contribute to a lowered risk of heart disease. Doctors recommend aiming for about a teaspoon a day in place of refined sugar, so you can look forward to a little heart-healthy sweetness in your favorite cup of tea. To ensure you’re getting the full effects, shop for raw honey and know that the darker the color, the greater the health benefits.