As you may or may not know, February is Heart Health month... Surprisingly, I feel like I haven't seen as much attention given to the cause this year as I have in years past -- which is unfortunate, because cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, stroke, and blood pressure, is still the nation's leading cause of death in men and women.
While there's no strong family history of cardiovascular disease on my side, several members on my husband's side have high blood pressure. As such, we both feel it's important to demonstrate healthy eating habits and emphasize fitness as a family.
I have to say that healthy eating comes much easier to me than daily exercise, but I'm slowly coming around. Last spring, my husband and I completed P90X3 together. Yeah, that was quite the challenge... But the results were undeniable, and we're planning to start a second round in the next few weeks.
I'm excited to get started, because I noticed last week that Walmart has a new line of budget-friendly P90X fitness products, and I'm definitely planning to pick up a few items. I've got my eye on the Ab & Plank Station to protect my bony elbows, and I'm think that this Self Massage Recovery Ball will be an amazing help with sore muscles those first few days of training.
In the meantime, my husband and I have joined a Thursday night adult futsal league. Now, neither of us has ever played a day of soccer in our lives prior to this, but we're having fun and getting in a good workout -- and we've both gained an even greater appreciate for the skills our 10-year-old daughter has worked so hard to hone.
Healthy Snack Ideas
Though we try to eat dinner early before we play, we're usually hungry again by the time we're done. So I thought it would be fun to share some of favorite heart healthy snack ideas that we turn to in the evenings!
It amuses me that avocado toast seems to be all the rage these days -- I've been eating it for years. If you haven't discovered the awesomeness yet, you simply have to try it! Start with your favorite whole grain bread, lightly toasted, and spread it with ripe avocado. Then top it off however you like! I'm obsessed with topping mine with sliced Roma tomatoes, along with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Why is avocado toast heart healthy? Whole grains contain antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols, which all protect against against coronary disease, and tomatoes are packed with lycopene, which also aids in disease prevention.
Banana Almond Smoothies
These banana almond smoothies are a family favorite. Delicious and nutritious, I stock up on marked down bananas at the store to freeze just so that we can make them!
Why are banana smoothies heart healthy?Bananas are full of potassium, which helps maintain normal heart function and the balance of sodium and water in the body, and the almond butter adds some healthy monounsaturated fats.
Apples with Nut Butter
Peanut butter and apples are delicious any way you slice them, but my kids swear they taste better when you turn them into these cute little "applewiches". They are delicious, and they only take a few added minutes to prepare. We love them with a little extra sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
Why are peanut butter apples heart healthy? Apples are loaded with fiber, and you'll get those heart healthy monounsaturated fats again from nut butter.
Hummus with Whole Grain Chips or Fresh Veggies
I didn't discover hummus until I was in college, but it quickly grew to become a favorite. Whether paired with whole grain chips or fresh veggies (red & yellow pepper slices, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas are some of my faves), hummus is a delicious and portable healthy snack idea!
Why is hummus heart healthy? Hummus packs a trifecta of heart healthy ingredients. Sesame seeds in the tahini paste contain high levels of magnesium, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Garlic provides antioxidants, and olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids, all of which combine for improved blood flow and reduced risk of atherosclerosis.
Yogurt with Berries
I think you all know by now just how much I love blueberries, and one of the simplest ways I like to eat them (other than straight from the carton) is on top of a bowl of Stonyfield Whole Milk French Vanilla yogurt. With or without a sprinkling of granola, it's an easy and filling snack. And if you're not a fan of blueberries? Substitute your favorite berry -- they're all filled with antioxidants!
Why is yogurt with berries healthy? The probiotics in yogurt protect against gum disease, which left unchecked, may elevate a person's risk for heart disease, and berries contain polyphenols, which help to relax blood vessels, resulting in lowered blood pressure.
Next time you're in the mood for a snack, skip the chips and try reaching for one of these healthier options. They all taste great and help to lower your risk of heart disease!
So what have you done to keep your heart healthy lately?