Ready to color yourself healthy for American Heart Month 2021? Before learning some easy ways to give love to your heart, take a minute to get into the spirit: Close your eyes and imagine a cartoon character overcome with love, their heart-shaped heart thumping way out through their shirt for all to see. Hearts on full display—that's what we're after during this special month.
What this year means
February 2021 marks the 57th consecutive year for American Heart Month in the United States. This year's observance is significant in a way that has never happened before. Not surprisingly, this is due to the pandemic, which has not only turned the entire world upside down but has also changed the ways in which we approach important causes.
Each year when American Heart Month arrives, communities across the United States raise awareness for heart health through various activities in public spaces or health care settings. This year, it's crucial to find alternate ways to spread the word about heart health. At Juice Plus+, we want to do our part by sharing helpful information you can share with your friends and loved ones.
3 ways to support heart health
1. Go full color
The bright side is we can all take small steps on a regular basis to maintain better heart health. One way to do that is to go full color—literally.
You've heard the phrase "eat the rainbow." What that means is by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, you get the health benefits of all the different colors. The distinct colors in fruits and vegetables represent a particular magic act of nature in the form of phytonutrients, which are beneficial compounds found only in plants.
Phytonutrients help plants resist fungus, bacteria, and other threats to survival. When we consume these plant foods, we also reap the benefits of phytonutrients, including cancer-fighting antioxidants and support for organ and immune system function.
It's important to have a balance between all the colors found in plant foods, because each offers unique benefits. Concentrated amounts of phytonutrients are found in the peels, so make sure to eat the peels of fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
Life is busy, and it can be hard to make sure you're eating the rainbow each day. If you want a simple way to supplement your nutrition, add Juice Plus+ capsules into your daily regimen. That way, if you don't have time for chopping and steaming and such every day, you'll still get a boost from a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Your guide to eating the rainbow
Green: spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)
Red: strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions
Orange and yellow: carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, winter squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn
Blue and purple: blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage
White and brown: onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish, mushrooms.
2. Move your body
It's common knowledge that exercise is good for the heart. The consensus among experts is to devote 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week to moderate exercise. That means brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or any other structured effort to keep your heart pumping above your resting heart rate for 30 minutes. The optimal heart rate for exercise depends on factors that will differ for each person, including age, weight, and overall health.
What many people don't know is cardio isn't the only type of heart-healthy exercise. Weightlifting, or resistance exercise, is also beneficial for the heart. Before you think it's not for you: You don't have to be a muscle-bound gym rat. In fact, it takes less than one hour a week in order to achieve heart-healthy results.
In a set of studies undertaken at Iowa State University, researchers found that even under 60 minutes per week "was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes." They also found that resistance training significantly lowers the risk of high cholesterol.
3. Eat with purpose
Meal planning takes on many forms. Some people do heavy prepping by chopping, cooking, and portioning out their meals for the week. Others simply plan dinner menus in advance. Regardless of how you go about it, the goal for American Heart Month is to eat with your heart in mind.
While the rainbow of plant foods is your first defense, these aren't the only foods that support the cardiovascular system. You can also incorporate animal sources into your diet. One of those foods that packs a nutritional punch is salmon, which is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are one of two types of fatty acids (the other is omega-6) that are "essential," meaning the body can't produce them itself, so you have to get them from your diet. Omega-3s are the more important of the two because we generally get enough omega-6 without making much effort.
To kick start your heart-healthy diet in February, try the simple recipe below that incorporates fruits and vegetables, as well as that all-important omega-3 source of fish.
Baked Dill Salmon With Arugula Salad
- 4 5-6 oz. portions of salmon
- 1 lemon
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1 T minced garlic
- 4 sprigs fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a large glass baking dish with coconut oil and place the pieces of salmon with a little room between each. Divide the minced garlic among the pieces of salmon and rub it all over each, also seasoning with salt and pepper. If desired, place a dollop of clarified butter (butter with milk solids removed) atop each piece along with a sprig of dill and a slice of lemon.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, until salmon flakes easily with a fork.
When the salmon is done, place atop a bed of arugula with your favorite vegetables and fruit (options below), along with a drizzle of dressing made with walnut or avocado oil, fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Walnuts are also a good source of healthy fats and make a great crunchy salad topping.
Veggie options: sun-dried tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, purple cabbage
Fruit options: blueberries, mandarin oranges, grapes.