Valentines and Veggies
Do you 'heart' this season? Find out how dietary choices can keep your ticker in top shape.
A Note from Jenn, our resident RN:
Now that February is upon us, it comes with a day that is dreaded among teenagers and loved amongst most children and adults. Yes, I am speaking of Valentine’s Day. Since this is a day filled with cute heart-snaped symbols, I thought it would be appropriate, and maybe cliché to some, to focus on heart health this month. The best gift that you can give this Valentine’s Day is a healthy ticker that will keep beating strong for your loved ones. As a cardiac nurse, I am passionate about preventing and in some cases reversing our #1 killer in this country, heart disease. So how can you do this? Here are 5 simple tips that will keep those blood vessels clear and flowing beautifully. How romantic.
Consume a Plant-Strong, High Fiber Diet
I’m sure you’ve heart that oatmeal helps to reduce cholesterol. This is true as the insoluble fiber in the oats bonds with extra cholesterol in the body and removes it. Fiber can only be found in plant foods so consume lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils & peas) and a small amount of nuts & seeds. Any type of animal food, including meat, cheese, yogurt and eggs is completely devoid of fiber. Fiber also aids in the removal of extra hormones in the body, thus reducing the risk of cancer. Bonus! Another benefit to a plant-strong diet is that it will help you lose weight, reducing another major risk factor of heart disease.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise six days of the week. If you are new to exercise, start with a brisk walk for 15 minutes daily and work your way up to at least 30-60 minutes. Exercise aids in strengthening the heart muscle, making it a more efficient pump to distribute blood flow to your tissues. It also increases endorphins, a neurotransmitter which keeps your braining smiling.
Those who smoke have an increased risk of myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. Plaque that forms within the walls of the blood vessels is more likely to burst and cause a clot, thus causing a heart attack, in those who smoke. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save!
Surround Yourself with Positive People
Having a supportive network of friends and/or family helps to improve mood and makes our hearts smile. Our ability to connect, give and receive love fulfill us and keeps our immune system working better. Pets also make wonderful companions!
Powerful hormones and neurotransmitters are released when the body is stressed and can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can cause damage to the heart muscle. Prayer, meditation, yoga, and music are all tools that can be used to reduce stress.
Make your friends, family and Saint Valentine proud of you during this month by keeping your ticker happy. Checkout our many upcoming classes that will show you just how to do this. If you follow these tips, you will be well on your way to a healthier, fulfilled life!
Tofu Satay with Peanut Sauce
According to the American Heart Association, there is increasing evidence that consumption of soy protein, found in foods such as tofu, in place of animal protein lowers blood cholesterol levels and may provide other cardiovascular benefits. Pair this recipe with a large green salad or sautéed vegetables (using water or veggie broth instead of oil)
2 (14 oz ) packages Firm or Extra Firm Organic Tofu
1⁄4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup, coconut sugar or evaporated cane sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder or freshly minced garlic
1⁄4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/3 bunch green onions, sliced
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
32 - 5 inch skewers (optional)
Red Thai Peanut Sauce
• ½ inch chunk fresh ginger root
• 1 shallot, finely chopped (or ¼ small onion)
• 1 tsp crushed red chili pepper
• ⅓ cup peanut butter
• ½ cup light coconut milk
• 1 lime, juiced
• 1+1/2 tablespoon soy or tamari sauce
• 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon red Thai curry paste
Step 1) Drain tofu well. Slice each block of tofu down the middle into two thick rectangles. Next, slice blocks into two thinner rectangles. If the tofu is soft, place it on the counter, wrapped in a clean dishcloth, and place a weight on top for about 10 minutes to drain. Divide each tofu rectangle into 4 small triangles and set aside a total of 32 pieces.
Step 2) Combine the tamari, rice vinegar, sweetener, garlic and red chili flakes in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Place tofu cutlets into the marinade, marinate for two hours to overnight.
Step 3) Place 1 -2 pieces of tofu on each skewer. Heat a grill or large sauté pan lightly sprayed with cooking oil. Cook the tofu over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side then transfer to a plate, drizzle with Red Thai Peanut Sauce (described below), chopped green onions and sesame seeds.
Step 4) Blend all peanut sauce ingredients and place into a medium heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a very gentle boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Let the mixture simmer for 3-5 minutes over low heat; be careful not to let the mixture scorch at the bottom of the pot.
Step 5) Take the pot off the heat, let the sauce cool down to room temperature (or slightly warmer), and serve the sauce with tofu satay.
Recipe adapted from Liz Gary of San Diego Soy Dairy