Valentine's Day, the largest chocolate and flower day of the year happens tomorrow. You're welcome to all the gents reading this, you've still got time to pick up something for your sweetheart. In addition to flowers, chocolate, wine and heart-shaped pizzas, paradoxically February is also heart-health month. As much as we'd like to believe that consuming a box of dark chocolates and a bottle of red wine after dinner can be good for the heart, the palette is by far the body part experiencing the greatest benefits.
Now before you all go labelling me as anti-chocolate and no fun, I am a chocolate lover. In fact I've created several chocolate recipes that are not only delicious, but healthy. Something I've been able to share and help my clients stay on track with their health goals and not feel deprived. And on the rare occasion, I'll have a glass of red wine. Dark chocolate and red wine both contain resveratrol, a component that does promote heart health. What most people don't know however, is that the amount of resveratrol you'd ingest over dessert with your sweetheart, isn't enough to make a significant difference in your health.
As you've heard (or read) me say before, we can get all the nutrients our body needs from food. There's no question God gave us great stuff here on this planet. The question is, do we? An article published by the Kressler Institute in 2018 reported, “More than half the calories Americans consume, come from nutrient-depleted, ultra-processed foods...” and went on to say that “Nearly one-third (31 percent) of the U.S. Population is at risk for at least one vitamin deficiency or anemia.” United States stats are always easier to dig up, but trust me, Canadians are right there too.
Since we're smack dab in the middle of heart month, let's look at three supplements that are known for building and supporting a healthy heart. I've already mentioned resveratrol. Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10, and Omega 3. As with any nutrient, taking a supplement should not be considered a replacement for the healthy foods that also contain the same nutrients. Supplements are to come alongside and fill the gaps, not provide a “get-out-of-eating-your-veggies” free card.
Of these three, if you take supplements at all, you're most likely using, or at least have heart of, omega 3s. Several types of fish including salmon, lake trout, sardines, herring, anchovies, as well as nuts, seeds, flaxseed, and chia all contain omega 3 fatty acids. Great for supporting brain function, alleviating rheumatoid arthritis, and joint pain, omega 3s also help to lower blood fat levels. In other words it helps bring down elevated triglycerides and lowers cholesterol, which also brings down your risk of heart disease and stroke. And unless you're eating fish daily, supplementing is definitely a good idea.
Resveratrol, found in red grapes and cocoa beans – red wine and dark chocolate – is known for it's antioxidant properties and ra 2015 review posted on PubMed concluded that, “high doses may help reduce the pressure exerted on artery walls when the heart beats.”, bringing down blood pressure. Of course consuming high doses of red wine or chocolate for that matter would produce the opposite effect, creating inflammation. So, supplementing is the way to go. Researches also found supplementing with resveratrol had a positive impact on overall cholesterol levels and may also help decrease plaque build up inside artery walls. Again, resulting in a healthier heart.
This last one you may not be so familiar with, but that doesn't mean it's benefits should be discounted in any way. Unlike resveratrol and omega 3, Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is something our bodies produce naturally. According to a June 2019 article by Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, CoQ10 helps cells produce energy, and neutralize free radicals, the damaged cells that cause illness and aging, improved heart health and offset negative effects of statin drugs, slows down DNA damage due to aging, helps maintain ph balance, may slow or reverse the spread of some cancers, supports cognitive function, may improve male infertility, treats symptoms of fibromyalgia. Similar to collagen and stem cells, the amount of CoQ10 our bodies produce reduces with age. And although consuming foods that contain CoQ10 such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts is something everyone should be doing, Dr. Axe goes on to say that for individuals who, “struggle with certain health conditions, such as heart disease......having chronic diseases, high levels of stress, deficient in vitamin B, mitochondria diseases, taking statin drugs...” food alone may not be enough as these conditions further impede CoQ10 production. And as the heart is just one of many areas CoQ10 is needed for optimal health, it's in our best interest to keep those levels up.
As with anything you put in your body, quality matters. Just like your car, the better quality fuel you put in, the better performance you're going to get. Whether it's food or supplements, same goes for your body. And in case there was any doubt, that old adage, 'you get what you pay for', it's true. February's the perfect time to give your heart and yourself some love. You're worth it.
Looking for healthy chocolate recipes for your Valentine? Join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook. And for couples committed to achieving those health and weigh loss goals, the Sweetheart of a Deal is for you.
Kelowna Nutritionist STOP dieting, start living! Lose the Bloat, Melt your Belly, Love Your Life!! Last thing, last time, believe it! Sign up to receive my bi-weekly FIT Nutrition blog, and get started today.