February is American Heart Month: a whole month dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease. The campaign spans an entire month because heart disease is particularly devastating. In the United States, approximately 121.5 million U.S. adults have some form of cardiovascular disease. It’s the number one cause of death, but it's almost entirely preventable.
Territory's Senior Manager of Nutrition, Danielle McAvoy sheds light on the best foods you can eat to protect yourself from heart disease, and how those foods work to keep your heart healthy.
Heart disease refers to a number of issues that can happen in any part of the cardiovascular system. One of the most common problems is plaque buildup in the arteries, which makes it harder for blood to circulate throughout the body. Chronic inflammation can also damage blood vessels by hardening and causing them to grow narrow.
Blood clots are another concern. Clots can block narrowed passages, cutting off blood flow to the heart or brain. If the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen, a heart attack results. If the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can cause a stroke. High blood pressure, which can burst blood vessels in the brain, is another cause of strokes.
While there are many things that can go wrong, most of the symptoms stem from high-cholesterol levels and chronic inflammation. Eating a heart-healthy diet combined with regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, and making sure you get enough sleep will help your cardiovascular system stay strong and healthy.
Blueberries and other deep-blue to purplish foods like concord grapes and red cabbage, are full of anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant, that's been shown to lower blood pressure, as well as interfere with the process of plaque formation.
Try one of these meals with berries from our menu:
The polyphenols in cocoa can help calm inflammation and lower blood pressure. While this means that eating chocolate can be good for your heart, remember that it’s the cocoa and not the sugar providing the protective benefits. Aim for dark chocolate that’s 70% cocoa or higher.
Try one of these a la carte items with dark chocolate from our menu:
Omega-3 fats, like those found in fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, cod, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines, slow the build-up of plaque and reduce the amount of saturated fat floating in the bloodstream.
Try one of these meals with fatty fish from our menu:
Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients. They're also a good source of folate, a B vitamin that helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid that may damage the inner walls of arteries. Preventing damage to the arteries helps keep them elastic and open, which helps blood circulate more easily.
Try one of these meals with leafy greens from our menu:
Green tea, or matcha, is high in polyphenols that have been shown to significantly lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels dramatically reduce the likelihood for plaque buildup.
Try this meal with matcha from our menu:
Whole grains are high in soluble fiber, which acts like a sponge to soak up cholesterol in the bloodstream and remove it from the body.
Try one of these meals with oats from our menu:
Lycopene is carotenoid hydrocarbon that's responsible for a tomato's red hue. It's a remarkable nutrient that has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and help prevent blood clots, all of which are protective against a heart attack or stroke. Watermelon and grapefruit are also good sources of lycopene.
Try one of these meals with tomatoes from our menu:
Tree nuts in general are high in healthy unsaturated fats, but walnuts, in particular, are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s. Just like with fish, the unsaturated fats in walnuts help slow plaque build-up and improve the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Try this meal with walnuts from our menu:
Our menus vary by zip code. We pride ourselves on working with chefs across the country for a variety of flavors, delivering within a regional radius for freshness, and having a rotating menu so Territory customers never get bored of our options!. If you see a Territory meal you'd love to try, but don't see it on your weekly menu, email us at [email protected]m so we can share your wishlist with our culinary team. We appreciate your feedback.