Eating to Maximize Your Heart Health
I don’t know about you but I hesitate taking vitamin and mineral supplements because I don’t trust how much they actually help. I question if they really absorb into my body or if I’m just peeing most, if not all, of it out! I know if I did some homework I could find recommendations on better brands touting higher absorption but then that can get expensive, and I still won’t really know how effective they are.
I recently read an article on the power of pairing foods to optimize heart benefits so I thought I start there. By eating certain foods together I’ll at least have the satisfaction of enjoying my snacks or meals, knowing there may be some good collaborative health benefits happening!
The first synergistic pairing is Vitamin B6 with Magnesium. Magnesium is big player for the heart. It can help regulate blood pressure, prevent hardened arteries, and keep your heart rhythm regular. Foods richest in Magnesium include seeds (pumpkin, flax, chia), nuts (especially almonds and cashews), and greens (especially spinach). Women need approximately 310-320 mg daily. To give you an idea of what this looks like, 1 oz. of pumpkin seed kernels is a whopping 168mg! 1 oz. of dry roasted almonds is 80mg, 1 oz. of dark chocolate (60-69%) cacao is 50 mg. and ½ cup of boiled spinach is 78 mg. Pick a favorite and double up on the serving and you’re practically there!
It’s partner, Vitamin B6 aids in the absorption of magnesium. Good sources for vitamin B6 include bananas, avocado and salmon, among others. The optimum dose for women over 30 is 1.5mg. Salmon gives you the biggest return, a 6 0z. fillet delivers 1.6mg (94% of recommended daily dose). Lean Chicken Breast is the next biggest contributor; a 6 oz. breast has 1.6 mg B6 or 92% of daily recommended. For vegetarians, a cup of Fortified Tofu is 1.1 mg or 66% of Daily recommended amount. A cup of sweet potatoes or bananas each offer .6mg (32%DV). An avocado has .5mg or 30% DV of B6.
The next duo that works well together to help our body in many ways- including regulating our Blood pressure is Sodium and Potassium.
Most of us consume roughly 1000mg more of sodium than is recommended (daily recommended is 2300 mg) and not enough Potassium. The obvious solution is to cut way down on processed food (packaged food and restaurant food). The trick is to add a little salt to high potassium foods, which is just what cooked vegetables need! Examples: cooked spinach, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, … leafy greens, all taste that much better with some salt! Another trick I’ve found is, invest in good salt, it’s not that much more and it makes such a difference on food. I buy the Trader Joes salt that comes packaged already in a self-grinding shaker.
Another happy couple is Vitamin C and Iron to help ward off anemia. Iron builds red blood cells; a lack of iron causes Anemia. Anemia can cause the heart to work harder, which can cause irregular heartbeats or worse, heart failure.
Although this isn’t a big problem in the U.S. where meat and seafood are a part of diets, it is something to be aware of for vegetarians (and the large wave of people moving to plant based diets). If you’re in this group, Vitamin C can be especially useful in maximizing absorption of plant foods. If you’re not in this group, you probably don’t need to concern yourself with this combination.
These are just a few examples and ideas of what you can do (and enjoy) eating to maximize your heart health. If you’re interested, you can find more ideas with a little bit of research. As always, consult your physician to ensure your diet choices are right for you. A health professional can also help guide you on avoiding taking too much of a good thing as well!
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