Did you know February is Heart Health Awareness Month? I was thrilled when Kroger reached out to me to share one of our family’s favorite heart healthy recipes. Heart disease runs in our family and is something we have unfortunately seen the devastating effects of first hand. 19 years ago, my father suffered a major heart attack, which shortly after attributed to his death. My mother was most recently diagnosed with heart disease last year. Chances are we all have at least one family member that has or will be affected by heart disease in our lifetime.
I was shocked to learn that heart disease is the number one killer in women. NUMBER ONE. I’ve heard it before but it just never really sunk in, until now. With those statistics, it is so important that we educate ourselves before it’s too late.
What women should know…
- Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing one woman every 80 seconds.
- An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
- 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
- Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
- 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education.
- Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
- The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood, even by some physicians.
Okay that last statistic, where are my Grey’s Anatomy fans? Haha. But seriously, trust your gut. ALWAYS! You are the only one who truly knows your body, learning to listen to it could save and extend the quality of your life.
Warning signs for women…
- chest pain
- radiating discomfort in your left arm
- shortness of breath
- jaw pain
- back pain
- fluid retention
The first two are well known, but the last five are silent symptoms we need to also be aware of. If you’re feeling off, consult a physician. Truly understanding our body is key in catching the warning signs early on.
A women’s intuition is a very strong thing; don’t ever discount it. -Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum
Diet and exercise play a major role in the quality of our heart health…
Simple physical changes can drastically lower your risk for future complications. Thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise, fives times a week can significantly improve your cardiovascular health. It’s as simple as walking the dog, playing at the park with your kids or hitting the gym. Just move! You don’t have to make drastic life changes to see the benefits, slowly start increasing your daily activity, one step at a time!
A combination of a healthy lifestyle and diet are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease. Adding fresh fruits and vegetables to round out each meal will not only decrease your risk immensely, but also help you feel your best. Fill your plate with foods that are low in sodium, high in fiber and packed with lean proteins. We must fuel well to feel well.
One of my favorite methods to get heart healthy ingredients into my family are green smoothies. You can sneak almost anything into them and mask the taste with delicious fruits and berries! This red velvet smoothie is delicious and packed full of nutritional heart healthy superfoods! Your family will think you made them a sweet chocolate treat, all while supporting their cardiovascular health. Sneaky!
Here’s what I snuck in…
- Spinach is high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and free your body of potentially harmful compounds. It is also high in fiber and contains oodles of vitamins and minerals.
- Soy based products like milk and tofu are a good way to add protein to your diet without unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Soy contains high levels of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals and compared to milk or other proteins, soy can actually decrease LDL or bad cholesterol.
- Cacao the plant from which chocolate is made, is rich in flavanols, which can help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. It also acts as an antioxidant, which can keep bad cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls. Choose quality dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa to get more flavanols and less sugar. Win!
- Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Omega-3 fatty acids can also decrease risk of arrhythmias, abnormal heartbeats.
- Raspberries and strawberries are both loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that mop up damaging free radicals in your body. They also pack fiber and vitamin C, which are both linked to a lower risk of stroke.
- Avocados get their creamy texture from good fats, which lower your bad cholesterol. They have also been said to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Therefore lowering your chances of chronic inflammation which can cause atherosclerosis, the hardening of artery walls.
- Pomegranate phytochemicals reduce LDL oxidation and have blood pressure-reducing properties. They are also a great source of fiber and contain vitamins A, C and E and iron.
- Oats contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan that lowers your LDL cholesterol.
Kroger has an impressive selection of Simple Truth Organic products throughout their store. I used Simple Truth Organic frozen berries for this recipe but fresh berries will work as well, just make sure to add a handful of ice! Nobody likes a warm smoothie… well except maybe moms. I swear I finish my smoothies hours after I make them, once I find where I set it down.
This smoothie is your hearts new plant-based BFF. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine!
Heart Healthy Red Velvet Smoothie
- 1 cup Simple Truth Organic soy milk unsweetened
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 cup Simple Truth Organic raspberries frozen
- 3-4 Simple Truth Organic whole strawberries frozen
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
- handful of spinach
- 2 tbsp raw honey or pure maple syrup to sweeten
- 1 tbsp ground flax
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- handful of ice if using fresh berries
- top with Simple Truth Organic shaved dark chocolate
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Top with a dollop of whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate if needed. Enjoy!