February is National Heart Health month and for a very good reason! As we celebrate those we love with Valentines day cards and flowers, it is also appropriate to celebrate the health of our physical hearts. Heart disease is the the number one killer of adult Americans, according to the National Heart Association. Astonishing isn't it?
I recently wrote an article for our local paper calling attention to the widely held belief that cholesterol and fat CAUSE heart disease. In our discussion, I showed that chronic INFLAMMATION is actually the culprit of heart disease, not cholesterol.
Chronic inflammation can be caused by many diet and lifestyle factors. Cholesterol only enters the heart disease equation as a misguided Rescue Worker. Inflammation in the body is what triggers cholesterol to go in and mend the damage. It is the continuous cholesterol deposited in the arteries that puts one as risk of a heart attack and stroke. The Fat we consume enters the heart disease equation by either promoting inflammation or soothing inflammatory.
So one very important piece of a heart healthy diet is to decrease inflammation in the body. You don’t do this by omitting cholesterol and fat. You do this by including healthy fats while removing unhealthy ones,
Here are Six tips for shifting away from inflammation that contributes to heart disease.
(oh yes, and don't forget to try the RECIPE below!)
1. Remove fats that cause inflammation. This includes canola oil or foods that are fried in oil. Hydrogenated oils (often found in peanut butter, microwave popcorn and baked goods) should also be avoided as much as possible. Also, ditch the shortening and margarine and embrace real butter, beef fat or lard or coconut oil.
2. Use fats and oils that protect against inflammation. This includes virgin olive, avocado or coconut oils for all baking or high heat cooking. Avocados, olives, sardines and salmon all contain good-for-you fats too!
3. Cook with herbs. All herbs have an anti-inflammatory affect. Turmeric and black pepper together are especially potent anti-inflammatories.
4. Don’t be scared to eat eggs (unless you have an allergy). Eat the entire egg including the yolks (which contain one half of the eggs protein content and all of its vitamins and minerals).
5. Avoid crazy sugar spikes. Sugar causes inflammation in general but yoyo dieting, soda drinking, and late night desserts will definitely fan the flames of inflammation. People with Diabetes should also carefully manage their blood sugar levels. Overall, watch your carbohydrate and sugar intake. Even if you don’t feel like you eat a lot of sugary sweets, you may be eating too many total refined carbs in day.
6. Address any food allergies, known infections, toxins or yeasts in your gut. Work with your healthcare Provider (Allergist, Naturopathic Doctor or Dietitian) to assess and treat these issues.
This recipe taken from Rebeca Katz’s cookbook, The Longevity Kitchen.
Walnuts have long been celebrated for their anti inflammatory effect. Just 1/4 cup provides almost an entire serving of the necessary omega 3 oils. Omega 3s are good for your brain function and the battle against inflammation.
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ tsp orange zest
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Grade B maple syrup
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pinch of Cayenne
1 cup walnuts (or a combination of your favorite nuts)
¼ cup unsweetened dried cranberries (or raisins)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, maple syrup, coriander, salt, ginger and cayenne in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add walnuts and cranberries and toss until evenly coated. Spread the mixture evenly on the lined baking sheet.
Bake for 10- 15 min until liquid is bubbly and has mostly cooked off. Walnuts should smell good and be slightly brown. Cool at room temperature before loosening mixture with a spatula. Store in an air- tight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days.