February is American Heart Month, so it’s fitting I dedicate this post to heart health — a very important topic, and one that’s relevant at every age.
Adopting healthier habits should start as soon as possible, but if you feel that your lifestyle could use a tweak, there’s no time like the present. Science has shown that, simply enough, eating right and staying active can benefit your heart health.
It’s true that getting started can be overwhelming. Do you begin by adopting an exercise regimen, going vegan or doing more cardio? It doesn’t have to be a big change, and I always suggest that my clients start with simple dietary changes that can go a long way in boosting heart health.
While most heart-healthy diets focus on reducing consumption of high-fat and high-sodium foods, what you add to your diet can be just as important. Purple foods, in particular, can be a great way to support a healthy heart. That’s because purple foods provide phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, naturally occurring polyphenols not found in many other colors of fruit. Interestingly, only three percent of total fruit and vegetables eaten are from the purple-blue category.
To begin your heart-smart diet, try eating five daily servings of fruit and vegetables, and make sure some of your produce is purple! Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Eggplant: The deep, rich color of this vegetable comes from anthocyanins. Try grilling eggplant slices with a bit of olive oil for great flavor without lots of fat or calories.
Purple 100% (Concord) Grape Juice: This beverage provides polyphenols, like anthocyanins, which, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, play a role in heart health by supporting healthy blood vessels. And, many of the polyphenols (plant nutrients) found in dark-purple Concord grapes are the same as those found in red wine, and research suggests that 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes helps support a healthy heart. Just four ounces of 100% juice count as one serving of fruit. I’ve worked with Welch’s, and since learning more about the science behind Concord grapes, I make one serving of 100% grape juice part of every day.
Purple Onions: Read this and weep! The nutrients in onions have been shown to maintain healthy blood lipids and blood pressure. Grill red or purple onions with asparagus then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Purple Cabbage: The vitamin and mineral content in this type of cabbage is significant, and its anthocyanin content makes it heart-healthy. For a tasty side dish, sauté purple cabbage with onions in olive oil.
No time to cook? No problem. Try these five, purple-packed suggestions, to get you through the day:
- Sprinkle blueberries or blackberries on your morning cereal.
- Snack on a smoothie made with non-fat yogurt, a banana and 100% grape juice.
- Toss a lunchtime salad with mixed greens and purple cabbage.
- Assemble a side by roasting purple potatoes or grilling eggplant.
- Poach purple plums for a sweet treat.