February is American Heart Month and if you read my newsletter earlier this month, there is some valuable information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on who is at risk and what signs to look for if you or someone you love is suffering from a heart attack or event.
I personally struggle with familial high cholesterol, a family history of heart attacks and diabetes and Mitral Valve Prolapse; which is a heart problem in which the valve that separates the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart does not close properly. At it’s highest, my cholesterol has reached 292 (normal limits are below 200) so my cardiologist put me on a statin. However, after being on a certain brand for several months, I couldn’t walk. I am in the minute category of people that can’t take certain statin drugs as it causes debilitating side effects.
My cardiologist (who happens to be Greek) suggested following the Mediterranean diet as much as I could; which was a breeze since I tend to follow the diet on a regular basis anyway (minus the fish of course); however he also wanted me to omit all corn products as corn is genetically modified and is considered a starchy vegetable which is not part of the diet. I tried this for 3 months and though my cholesterol did get down to 260, it just wasn’t enough to get me below the danger level. We’re going to do a combination of following the diet, as well as try another brand of statin and hope for the best.
The main thing is to continue to eat healthy and incorporate the following foods into my diet as much as possible. Though my numbers didn’t decrease as much as I would have liked them to, they did decrease strictly on diet alone and I’d hate to see how high my cholesterol would be if I didn’t regularly consume most of the items on this list. I truly believe that eating a balanced diet full of the right combination of foods, like those on the Mediterranean diet, are beneficial to heart health and help to protect your heart and lower your cholesterol.
Here are specific foods that give an extra healthy benefit when it comes to protecting the heart or help to lower cholesterol and should be incorporated into your diet for better heart health.
Protects the Heart
apples artichokes bananas beets blueberries broccoli cabbage carrots cherries dark chocolate *grapefruit grapes fish flax green tea kale lemon limes oatmeal olive oil onions oranges peanuts pomegranate potatoes red wine soy spinach strawberries tomatoes
artichokes avocado beans cantaloupe dark chocolate figs fish garlic *grapefruit mushrooms oats onions peanuts prunes soy spinach tea tomatoes nuts watermelon wheat germ wheat bran yogurt
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you sacrifice flavor. In fact, read my article on Common Herbs Used in Mediterranean-style Cooking. Try some new herbs in your recipes that you haven’t tried before instead of using dried herbs, it will completely change the flavor of your dish. Incorporate some of these heart healthy recipes into your diet today and as always, consult a physician before changing your diet or start a new exercise program.
Spinach, Pear & Mint Smoothie (Flaxseed)
Share YOUR favorite heart healthy recipes below!
*If you’re currently taking medication, check the restrictions before consuming grapefruit.