February is heart month. It's a time to think about our ticker, and make sure it's ticking healthily. We've got some easy tips for you to help increase your heart health this year!
One of the biggest things that can attribute to a healthy heart is fat. That's right: we said fat. Of course, we're talking about healthy fats that you find in foods--not body fat! Being a couch potato will not help you on your way to a healthy heart. What will? Monounsaturates--otherwise known as MUFAs or omega-9 fats. We don't often hear much about omega-9s, as most people focus on omega-3s, but today we're going to shine a light on these heart-healthy helpers: why they help, and where you can find them in your food.
Omega-9s are not classes as essential fatty acids because you can make them from the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 to perform their many purposes in the body. While it's not required to get omega-9s through diet, it's often a good idea to include foods that have omega-9s, just in case your omega-3 and -6 levels are not up to par.
Omega-9s are considered to be heart-healthy fats that promote healthy inflammatory responses, balanced blood pressure, reduction of insulin resistance, and positive effects on cholesterol. Monounsaturates are abundant in the Mediterranean diet, and we're going to look at some of the power foods that can increase your omega-9 intake.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil is one of the best sources for omega-9s. The best oils are pressed at a temperature of less than 30 degrees Celsius, have an acidity of 1 or less, and come from fully ripe olives pressed at the optimum time. Because the oils have been so carefully extracted at cold temperatures, it's best not to heat them up in your frying pan. The important polyphenols, antioxidants that give extra virgin olive oil added benefits in addition to its MUFAs, are diminished with heat.
Olives: another excellent way to get your MUFAs! Choose olives that are packed without preservatives or chemicals.
Avocados: a great source of MUFAs, but also some protein, fibre, antioxidants, and minerals like potassium. Plus, they're so versatile! Diced into a salad, mashed into guacamole, blended into a smoothie, or eaten right out of its shell with a dash of salt or lemon, avocados are nature's convenience food!
Avocado Oil: this has a wonderful flavour and can be used in cooking or on salads. A quality unrefined avocado oil is green and should have an inviting fresh taste. Try sautéing minced garlic briefly in your avocado oil before drizzling it over some goat's cheese for a quick treat!
Almonds: packed with nutrition in addition to healthy omega-9s. Almonds are concentrated sources of energy, so you don't need to eat a lot at one time to get their benefits.
Almond Flour: ground blanched almonds that can be used in baking instead of grain flours. A convenient and delicious way to get your healthy omega-9s--MUFA packed muffins!
Macadamias, Hazelnuts, and Pecans: the nuts highest in monounsaturated fatty acids, followed by almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews. When we eat the whole nut, the fat is safeguarded by the natural antioxidants--so, look for whole, fresh nuts and seeds and buy them raw to avoid those cooked in vegetable oils!
PEANUTS ARE NOT NUTS--they are legumes. If they are soaked or simmered, they are gentle on the digestive system; when they are dry roasted or roasted in vegetable oil... not so much. In fact, peanuts are sometimes called "the garbage nut" because they pick up toxins in the soil and are prone to contamination. If you are going to eat peanut butter, ensure you choose organic peanut butters (because they are thought to have natural anti-aflatoxin capacity) and choose a superior brand that tests for aflatoxins and sets a strict limit. Choose peanut butters with peanuts as the ONLY ingredient--no hydrogenated fats, vegetable oils, sugars, or other additives. And ensure you can digest it! If it bothers you, avoid it.
Those are some of the best foods to enjoy to get your healthy omega-9 MUFAs. Include them more often in your diet (and don't forget about your omega-3s) for a healthy heart!
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