14 Feb Heart-Healthy Foods to Enjoy This Valentines Day
Valentine’s day is around the corner, and one of the most common ways to celebrate it is by having a meal with your special someone or with friends or family! Valentine’s day is the perfect day to enjoy heart-healthy foods like dark chocolate, berries, salmon, nuts, and avocado!
Let’s take a look at why these foods are heart-healthy and how you can enjoy them this Valentine’s Day!
The star of valentines day!
Chocolates are one of the most common gift items on Valentine’s day. There are different reasons why chocolates became the go-to gift on this special day: chocolate was believed to be an aphrodisiac during ancient times, while others believed its sweet characteristics served as a symbol of love1.
When it comes to health benefits, surprise your sweetheart with some dark chocolate, those with higher cacao solids present, or mix it up with a combo of milk and dark chocolate if they love milk chocolate!
Dark Chocolate is known for its heart health-promoting benefits. It is rich in flavonoids which help lower the risks of coronary heart disease and lower the risk of insulin resistance as well as high blood pressure in adults2. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants that help lessen oxidative stress in the body3.
You can incorporate dark chocolate into your valentine’s day meal as a dessert like chocolate cake or chocolate mousse, or try pure dark chocolate to enjoy!
Berries are small, fleshy, edible fruits that are usually bright or dark-colored with a sweet or sour taste. Some of the most well-known are strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. These bite-sized fruits are an excellent source of anthocyanins that help prevent inflammation, help maintain blood vessels and promote better blood flow4,5. Anthocyanins can also help support a decrease in LDL, body mass index, and blood sugar6.
Avocados are a most loved source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAS). MUFAs are known to be heart-friendly as they help support lowered cardiovascular inflammation7. Avocados also contain a good amount of vitamin C that can help lessen oxidation and inflammation in the body8. Avocados also contain beta-sitosterol which has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels9. Avocados are also a good source of potassium; with adequate potassium intake, we can support better control of our blood pressure10. You can use avocado on your favorite salads or to make a delicious batch of guacamole!
Nuts are a great go-to snack that almost everyone loves since they are not just satisfying to eat due to their crunchiness but they also help keep you feeling full and satisfied. There are so many options to try: peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and many more!
Aside from being a good source of protein, nuts are also heart health-friendly. Nuts contain arginine, which helps protect the inner lining of our blood vessels11. Nuts also contain antioxidants that can prevent inflammation12. Nuts also include Vitamin E that can help prevent plaque formation in our blood vessels13, 14.
You can enjoy nuts as a snack or with your meal as they are, or you can add them to a pesto sauce to go into a pasta or chicken dish. Nuts also serve as the star of many desserts as well!
Salmon is a heart healthy favorite for numerous reasons! For starters, salmon is an excellent source of Omega 3’s which help promote reduced high cholesterol levels and decreased inflammation15,16. Salmon also contains astaxanthin, an antioxidant known to support the lowering of bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL)16. Like avocado, salmon is a source of potassium which can help regulate blood pressure17. Salmon is also a great protein source so it can help strengthen our cardiovascular muscles18. Salmon also is packed with vitamin B3, which can also help aid in lowering cholesterol19.
Salmon is extremely versatile! You can enjoy it as the main dish, served with your favorite sauce or seasonings along with vegetables and rice or potatoes for a delicious and heart-healthy Valentine’s day meal.
Try combining all of these heart-healthy ingredients to make a heart-healthy Valentine’s day meal, get creative or use a recipe like this Salmon Salad with Walnuts, Avocado, and Blackberries with dark chocolate as a dessert.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
|Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE
Registered Dietitian/ Consultant
- Montagna, M. T., Diella, G., Triggiano, F., Caponio, G. R., De Giglio, O., Caggiano, G., Di Ciaula, A., & Portincasa, P. (2019). Chocolate, “Food of the Gods”: History, Science, and Human Health. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4960. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244960
- Huang, H., Chen, G., Liao, D., Zhu, Y., & Xue, X. (2016). Effects of Berries Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Meta-analysis with Trial Sequential Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Scientific reports, 6, 23625. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep23625
- van den Berg R, van Vliet T, Broekmans WM, et al. A vegetable/fruit concentrate with high antioxidant capacity has no effect on biomarkers of antioxidant status in male smokers. J Nutr. 2001;131:1714–1722.
- McAnulty, S. R., McAnulty, L. S., Morrow, J. D., Khardouni, D., Shooter, L., Monk, J., Gross, S., & Brown, V. (2005). Effect of daily fruit ingestion on angiotensin converting enzyme activity, blood pressure, and oxidative stress in chronic smokers. Free radical research, 39(11), 1241–1248. https://doi.org/10.1080/10715760500306836.
- Dreher, M. L., & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 53(7), 738–750. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2011.556759
- Duester K. C. (2001). Avocado fruit is a rich source of beta-sitosterol. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(4), 404–405. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00102-X
- USDA and HHS. 2010b. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Part D. Section 6: Sodium, Potassium, and Water Report. D6:6—25), Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Liu G, Guasch-Ferré M, Hu Y, Li Y, Hu FB, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Rexode K, Sun Q. Nut Consumption in Relation to Cardiovascular Disease Incidence and Mortality among Patients with Diabetes Mellitus. Circulation Research. 2019 Feb 19.
- Guasch-Ferré M, Liu X, Malik VS, Sun Q, Willett WC, Manson JE, Rexrode KM, Li Y, Hu FB, Bhupathiraju SN. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017 Nov 21;70(20):2519-32
- Saremi, A., & Arora, R. (2010). Vitamin E and cardiovascular disease. American journal of therapeutics, 17(3), e56–e65. https://doi.org/10.1097/MJT.0b013e31819cdc9a
- Jain, A. P., Aggarwal, K. K., & Zhang, P. Y. (2015). Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences, 19(3), 441–445
- Simopoulos A. P. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 21(6), 495–505. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2002.1071924
- Kishimoto, Y., Yoshida, H., & Kondo, K. (2016). Potential Anti-Atherosclerotic Properties of Astaxanthin. Marine drugs, 14(2), 35. https://doi.org/10.3390/md14020035
- D’Andrea E, Hey SP, Ramirez CL, Kesselheim AS. Assessment of the Role of Niacin in Managing Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(4):e192224. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.2224