However, I am inspired by the clients I work with who are taking steps to improve their health, nutrition and weight. Even small changes in your daily fitness and food choices can minimize your risk of heart issues. And because you may be more tempted to eat sweets this month, I’ve included my favorite “good, better best” tips for kicking your sugar cravings, since consuming too much added sugar can significantly increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine. I’ve also included two delicious heart-healthy recipes for you to enjoy and share!
Wishing you a happy, healthy and full heart this month,
Be Sweet to Yourself: Use “Good, Better and Best” Food Choices! A heart healthy diet is low in refined sugar and sweeteners, low in sodium, low in trans fats, and high in “good, better and best” choices, including nutrient-dense vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and whole grains.
Let’s start with sugar (since you will be seeing “the big red heart” a LOT this month!) The latest research continues to show that sugar causes inflammation; suppresses the immune system; is a leading contributor to obesity and adult-onset diabetes; and increases our risk of cardiovascular disease. Sodium is another heart concern; consuming too much salt can increase our risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Ready to fight back? I recommend, whenever possible, flavoring foods with “good, better and best” alternatives to sugar and salt. Try a few of these food flavoring tweaks in your own meals!
• When recipes call for sugar, try chopped dates, raw honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup.
• Instead of salt, try chopped onions, garlic, Braggs liquid aminos, kelp granules, and nutritional yeast.
• Ditch the salt shaker for “better” choices, including herbs and spices. There are dozens to select -- from Italian flavorings such as rosemary, thyme and basil; ground spices such as cayenne and chili powder; or simple additions that pack a lot of flavor, such as cumin and lemon pepper.
• Multiply the benefits of choosing spices over salt by using natural anti-inflammatories such as fresh ginger or ground turmeric.
• To flavor fish, vegetables and salads, try citrus -- lemon, lime and orange are great complements to fresh foods. Use a tablespoon or two of citrus juice, or for a more intense flavor, try a teaspoon of finely grated citrus zest.
• Replace soda, sport drinks and energy drinks with flavored water. Use citrus juice or try muddled blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, or watermelon! You’ll have a sweet and healthy alternative.
• Other heart healthy tips for your daily diet include adding more fiber to your diet with whole grains, fruits and leafy greens; and including healthy fats in each meal, such as nuts, flax and chia seeds, olive oil, and avocado.
If that’s not what you’re currently doing, all of those changes might sound a little overwhelming. I encourage you to make one little change at a time if that’s more doable for you. Small steps lead to big changes. If you need support making healthy changes, I’m here to help you make “good, better and best” alternatives! One conversation could change your life! Let’s talk!
This Month's Healthy Recipe
A Fan Favorite: Coconut-Walnut Chocolate Truffles
• 2 cups organic pitted Medjool dates – soaked in warm water for 2- 3 hours
• 2- 3 TBSP raw cacao powder, additional for coating
• 1/4 cup cacao nibs
• ¼ cup goji berries, optional
• 1 TBSP coconut oil
• 1 TBSP natural (no sugar) coconut flakes
• 2 TBSP chopped raw walnuts (soak for 1 to 3 hours)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• Sea salt to taste
Soak pitted dates in warm water for 2 - 3 hours, until soft. Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor until you have a very smooth, uniform consistency. Use your spatula to scrape the dough down until it's well combined as you blend. Scoop out mixture one teaspoon at a time, roll into small balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Mixture will be very sticky; wet or lightly coat hands with coconut oil to make it easier to manage. Roll balls into additional cacao powder. Place truffles in the refrigerator for at least one hour to firm.