Five ways to keep your heart healthy

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It’s February—National Heart Health Month. I talk about heart health a lot. It’s a huge deal—heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women! I am going to do something a little bit different in this blog!

I usually talk about heart-healthy foods. In this entry, I am going to discuss some lifestyle choices you should make to reduce your risk of getting heart disease.

 Exercise

Exercise improves overall heart health! Exercise gets your heart pumping harder, which strengthens it. It’s suggested to exercise moderately at least 150 minutes per week for maximum benefits. You don’t have to hit the gym to get exercise. Take your dog for a light jog. Dance with your girlfriends!  Try an app like Sworkit to get in a great 20-60 minute workout at home. Even a 10 minute mini-workout is better than no workout!

Sleep

Get enough sleep. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Studies have linked getting sufficient quality sleep had healthier arteries than those who didn’t.  Turn electronic devices off at least an hour before bed.  Determine a relaxing sleep ritual for yourself (maybe reading or doing some yoga or stretching, or even a warm bath).

If you have difficulty sleeping, make sure your room is dark (consider blackout curtains). White noise machines also help light sleepers.

Smoking

Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.  Smoke can damage your arteries and lead to the buildup of fatty material. When fatty material builds up in your arteries, they narrow, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Ask your doctor what you can do to quit smoking as soon as possible.

Alcohol

Keep alcohol to 1-2 glasses per day(1 drink for women and 2 drinks per day for men). Drinking more alcohol increases chances of developing high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and other heart disease risk factors.

Stress Reduction

Stress is a major factor in heart disease. Several studies show that meditation is an effective modality to reduce stress. It also helps to reduce anxiety, and harmful hormones. Meditating can lower heart rate and blood pressure.

And do something that will make you laugh! Laughter is good for your heart; it actually raises your HDL (good) cholesterol!

Eat well, exercise daily (even if for 10 minutes), sleep well, quit smoking, limit alcohol, and reduce stress and your heart will thank you!

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Nuts about nuts!

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What food is so versatile, so delicious, high in protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy unsaturated fats? By the title of my blog, I’m sure you guessed it—nuts! And I am nuts about nuts because they are widely available, so good for you and each one tastes different, which means I never get bored with them. In this blog, I will share some nutrition information about my five favorite nuts.

Each of these nuts are amazing at possibly helping to prevent heart disease and they are great (when eaten in small serving sizes) for weight-loss efforts. Study after study find that nuts are the perfect heart-healthy food choice!

Almonds

A small handful of almonds contains roughly:

Calories: 161

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 14 grams

Protein: 6 grams

Carbs: 6 grams

Fiber: 3.5 grams

Vitamin E: 37% of the RDI

Magnesium: 19% of the RD

Pistachios

A small handful of pistachios contains roughly:

Calories: 156

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 12.5 grams

Protein: 6 grams

Carbs: 8 grams

Fiber: 3 grams

Vitamin E: 3% of the RDI

Magnesium: 8% of the RD

Cashews

A small handful of cashews contains roughly:

Calories: 155

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 12 grams

Protein: 5 grams

Carbs: 9 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI

Magnesium: 20% of the RDI

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts originate from a tree in the Amazon and are an incredibly rich source of selenium

A small handful of Brazil nuts contains about:

Calories: 182

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 18 grams

Protein: 4 grams

Carbs: 3 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Vitamin E: 8% of the RDI

Magnesium: 26% of the RDI

Walnuts

Walnuts are a very popular nut and an excellent source of the omega -3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

A small handful of walnuts contains roughly:

Calories: 182

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 18 grams

Protein: 4 grams

Carbs: 4 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI

Magnesium: 11% of the RDI

Add nuts to your morning oatmeal or yogurt. They’re great in salads. You can crush them for a “breading” for poultry and fish. Some like cashews blend well in smoothies as well. And even just a small handful of nuts is a great snack to keep you satiated between meals!

How to eat mindfully

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In our fast-paced society, most of us fall prey to multi-tasking, even when we eat! I admit that there are times when I am racing from presentation to presentation and have to eat while I’m driving. But you know what? Mindful eating is so important and I try to eat mindfully and encourage my clients to do as much as possible.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Arrive at your food

Arriving at food means that we become aware before a meal or snack that food has come into our personal space. Take 30 Seconds and assess the colors, shapes, arrangements, smells, names of the food you are about to eat. This sounds simple, but actually it’s more difficult than you might think. Sometimes we can be eating and not even know that we’ve made a choice to eat.

Step 2: Awaken to your food

Awakening to food means that we pay attention to all the aspects of food. When we awaken, we notice the sensations of the food, such as taste, change of flavors, texture and aromas. We can also look deeper to see the effort, resources and sacrifices within each food as well. A mindful eater spends at least one moment during each bite waking up to some aspect of the food.

Step 3: Tune into your body

Mindful eaters pay close attention to themselves as they eat. Become aware of how many chews it takes for you to chew your food completely. Have a “baseline” number of chews for eat bite. I suggest aiming for at least 10 chews per bite.

Step 4: Your surrounding

Mindful eating includes being aware of all the activities that surround food and eating. Setting the table, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and putting away leftovers are all part of eating. When we adopt a careful, deliberate way of behaving with any action involving food, we help ourselves stay in the moment and heighten the degree by which we honor food. You may want to set a calming ambience like lighting candles before you eat.

So, before you eat your dinner in front of TV again or eat your breakfast rushing out the door, try a practice of mindfulness when it comes to eating. At least try this practice at least once a day. It will help your feel truly amazing! And when you eat mindfully, you tend to eat healthier too!

Welcome whole grains

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I know, I know, you are going to tell me that you are trying the ketogenic diet, or paleo, Atkins, South Beach, or some other diet that “bans” carbs! I think each diet has merit to some degree or another, but I am actually going to tell you why you would want whole grains!

First of all, let me set things straight. I am NOT advocating refined carbs like crackers, cookies, white bread, flour tortillas or even white rice. I am suggesting you welcome whole grains—grains that contain the entire grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm (for example, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, and popcorn).

Whole grains are filled with fiber and almost every person I know (even healthy eaters) do not get enough fiber in your diet. Fiber helps keep things moving in your digestion system, keeps you fuller longer (so yes, it can help with weight loss), and it also lowers your risk of getting heart disease.

Whole grains also loaded with important B vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are amazing for reducing stress levels and giving you energy.

Speaking of energy—if you experience major dips in your energy throughout the day, whole grains can help prevent that! Why? They help regulate your blood-sugar levels. Lulls in your energy level often indicate that your blood sugar levels are not remaining steady throughout the day. Fix that with whole grains!

Are you unsure about how to try incorporating whole grains into your diet? Here are just a few tips:

  • Use whole wheat pasta when you would normally use regular pasta.
  • Swap white bread for whole grain bread.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast!
  • Look for whole grain crackers!
  • Instead of white rice, try cooking with brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, or millet.

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Get your heart healthy with a smoothie bowl for breakfast

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February is Heart Health Month and I’m going to tell you about how eating a smoothie bowl for breakfast can help reduce your risk of heart disease! Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women in the United States, so give this smoothie bowl a try!

Now, you may be wondering, what is a smoothie bowl? Aren’t smoothies supposed to be drunk from a glass? Smoothie bowls are simply smoothies you can eat with a spoon with lots of delicious toppings!

This smoothie was made with mixed berries, a frozen banana, plain Greek yogurt, and unsweetened cashew milk. It was topped with oranges, hemp seeds, and pomegranate!

Berries, oranges, and pomegranate are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, they are naturally low in calories and high in fiber and water! Fiber helps lower your cholesterol.

Bananas are a great source of potassium. Potassium can help manage high blood pressure by reducing the effects of excess sodium. When you eat more potassium, you lose more sodium in urine. Other foods rich in potassium are avocados, beans, potatoes, and more!

Greek yogurt and cashew milk are both fantastic sources of calcium. Calcium is a mineral that helps with muscle contraction!

And last but not least, hemp seeds are an excellent source of those healthy fats, omega-3 and rare omega-6 GLA. They are also packed with protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, and riboflavin! It’s really important to limit saturated and trans fats as they can damage your arteries and lead to heart disease. Load up your diet with omega-3 rich foods like hemp seeds instead!

There are so many variations of smoothie bowls you can make, so I’m going to give you a base recipe and you can create your own!

Step 1: Choose your fruit. Frozen fruit works best in smoothies because it makes it nice and cold!

Step 2: Choose your yogurt. Any kind is fine, but if you want extra protein try Greek yogurt. Try to stay away from yogurts with a lot of added sugars to cut back on calories.

Step 3: Choose your milk. Any kind of milk is fine too! I always go for nut milk because it is a lot lower in calories. If you are trying nut milk, make sure it’s the unsweetened variety to decrease added sugars.

Step 4: Pick some optional add-ins: spinach, nuts, seeds, protein powders. Add-ins like spinach are very tasteless and give you an extra serving of vegetables!

Step 5: Pour into a bowl and load up with healthy toppings like sliced fruit, coconut flakes, granola, and extra dark chocolate!

Go to Kellyschoice.org to see this recipe and more that were created by Rosemary Squires.

 

Weighing in on Weight-Loss: Healthy Fats

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I have a lot of clients who are on a weight-loss journey and so many of them have a “fat” phobia. They think if they eat fat, they will get fat, but that is not the case my friends when it comes to healthy fats. Let me clear up the conclusion.

Why You Need Fat:

Dietary fat provides you with energy, builds healthy cells, and regulates your hormones. Your brain needs fat in order to function properly—in fact, did you know that your brain is 60 percent fat? Studies have linked lack of dietary fat in one’s diet to depression as well as cognitive decline.

The Good Fats

Monounsaturated Fats: Known as MUFAs (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids), these fats actually help prevent belly fat. Even better, they help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. Good monounsaturated fats include: olive oil, cashews almonds or peanuts (this includes almond butter and peanut butter). I would recommend a quarter cup of the nut choices, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a dressing, or 2 Tablespoons of a nut butter on whole grain bread to get a nice daily serving of these good-for-you fats.

Polyunsaturated Fats: Like MUFAs, polyunsaturated fats(PUFAS) lower your LDL. And PUFAS are the specific fats that have shown amazing benefits to your brain from mood improvement to boosting brain function. In particular it is the Omega-3 form of polyunsaturated fats that your body needs most. Omega-3s are broken down into DHA, which is amazingly beneficial to your brain and EPA, which is known for its benefits you joint health and your skin. Both forms are excellent for heart health.

Omega-3s are found in fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as flaxseed and walnuts. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish a week. I would add that ground flaxseed in oatmeal is delicious (try it—a couple tablespoons a couple times a week). Like all nuts, a good serving of walnuts is one-quarter cup.

Omega-6s are also polyunsaturated fats that are found in oils like sesame oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, and safflower oil. Omega-6s benefits include the reduction of nerve pain, possibly helpful with ADHD, and they may ease Rheumatoid arthritis pain. However, too much Omega-6 compared to Omega-3 can cause inflammation and the Standard American Diet is inundated with Omega-6s because of the use of Omega-6 oils in processed food. If you reduce the amount of processed food that you consume, the safer you will be!

The Bad Fats

Saturated Fat: A high consumption of saturated fats will result in weight gain, not to mention that they raise your LDL cholesterol and can increase heart-disease risk. Saturated fat is found in most meat and in full-fat dairy like butter, milk, cream, cheese, etc. I recommend eating lean meat like chicken or turkey breast or leaner cuts of beef like sirloin. I also recommend eating low-fat cheese and drinking skim milk.

Trans Fat: Trans fat has gotten a lot of media attention the past decade ever since food companies were required to list the amount of trans fat in their foods starting in 2006. Trans fats are generally oils (partially hydrogenated soybean oil for example) that extend the shelf life of food. They raise your LDL, lower your HDL, and cause inflammation throughout the body, including weight gain.

The bottom line here is to read nutrition labels and look for 0 grams of trans fat and avoid fried food as much as possible because the majority of fried food has trans fat.

Now that you are clear on fat, make sure to include some good fats on your weight-loss journey.

 

 

Kelly’s Picks for 2018

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Are you looking for some healthy foods to work into your repertoire this year—foods that are totally healthy and actually taste delicious? Well, I have some picks for you! I love these all equally and they are all becoming regular “participants” in my healthy lifestyle!

My first pick is Lifeway Kefir. Kefir is a fermented beverage that tastes like a yogurt drink only it is way more loaded with probiotics. Lifeway Kefir has 12 live and active cultures. These probiotics may help regulate digestion and boost immunity. Lifeway Kefir may help build your healthy gut bacteria, which has long-lasting positive effects like improving your metabolism. It contains bone-building calcium also! It’s high in protein, which is great for your muscles. I recommend kefir for breakfast!

My second food pick is what I reach for when I’m having a snack attack—PopCorners!  They’re like guilt-free chips! They are air-popped and so delicious! They come in sweet and spicy flavors, but my favorite flavor is the “Salt of the Earth” flavor. These have three simple ingredients: yellow corn, sunflower oil, and sea salt. Each serving only has 110 calories—plus PopCorners are gluten-free and GMO-free. I suggest keeping this healthy snack at your desk, a much better option than visiting the vending machine!

My third pick may take you aback a little bit. It’s cottage cheese—wait keep reading. Say goodbye to boring cottage cheese—there’s a new cottage cheese on the block and it’s Muuna Cottage Cheese. Muuna cottage cheese comes in handy single-serving cups. High in protein and so rich and creamy, Muuna cottage cheese has real pieces of orchard fruit in their variety of flavors like raspberry, strawberry, peach, and pineapple to name a few.

My fourth pick is another snack I recommend keeping at your desk—Setton Farm pistachios! Pistachios are heart healthy and provide your body with amazing nutrition. Filled with antioxidants, they’re also a great source of vitamin B6, protein, and fiber. Setton Farms has offers far more than the standard salty pistachios. One of my favorite choices they offer is their Salt & Pepper flavored pistachios. When I am craving something sweet, I happily reach for their dark-chocolate covered pistachios—they’re amazing!

My fifth pick is a beverage. Maybe like me, you are looking for something more than water to consume? I have added Sunsweet Amazin Prune Juice into my repertoire. This delicious juice is an excellent way to help maintain good digestive health and give you the fiber that you need. Their juice also comes in a light variety with a mere 100 calories and 8 grams of sugar per serving.

My last pick isn’t technically a food, but it is a supplement I recommend Just Thrive probiotics, not to replace healthy food, but to supplement a healthy diet—hence why they are called supplements! Probiotics keep your digestive tract functioning optimally and also help your immune system and reduce the inflammation that is a precursor to almost every disease. Just Thrive probiotics have a powerfully potent and effective strain that is patented—Bacillus Indicus HU36®.

So there you have it! My top picks for 2018! Try them out and add some healthy pizazz to your food routine,

For recipes and more information on Kelly’s Choice, check us out at www.kellyschoice.org.