LAKE OCONEE — February is American Heart Month. As I stated last week, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Taking care of your heart is important. Exercise and losing weight, if overweight, is key. Last week I listed positive ways you can decrease your cardiovascular risk. The following are five things to add to the list. While additional studies are needed, new and emerging research suggests that each of the following may be ways to help boost heart health.
Drink coffee: Coffee has long been linked to a reduced risk for diabetes, a disease marked by high levels of blood sugar that threaten the heart. And now experts understand more about coffee’s potential protective effects. A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who regularly drank decaf or regular coffee at lunchtime had a reduced risk of type-2 diabetes compared to those who didn’t drink java. What does coffee have to do with diabetes? The study’s researchers believe that the beverage’s nutrients may help slow digestion and help support healthy blood sugar levels. Other new and emerging research suggests that coffee consumption helps support the cardiovascular system by fending off chronic inflammation and promoting the production of HDL “good” cholesterol. You can drink to that!
Sleep more: Recent research from Wake Forest University linked sleep deprivation to belly fat, which plays a big role in inflammation. Strive for at least six to eight hours each night.
Nibble on dark chocolate: Several studies have shown that chocolate may benefit more than just your taste buds. Most recently, a German study that tracked subjects for 10 years found that chocolate eaters had healthier hearts. More specifically, compared to those who ate less chocolate, people who ate about 1 ounce of chocolate per day had lower blood pressure and a lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Flavanoids, the nutrients found in cocoa, support healthy blood vessels and overall heart health. To get the most benefit with the fewest calories enjoy about an ounce of dark chocolate per day.
Seek stress relief: Taking a time out for self-care such as a getting a pedicure, doing some journaling or taking a walk can help you stay clear-headed, supports healthy blood pressure levels and reduces your reaction to stress, all of which helps your heart.
Eat popcorn: A recent study from the University of Scranton found that many whole-grain foods like popcorn are as rich as fruits and vegetables in polyphenols, a type of heart-healthy antioxidant. Opt for air-popped popcorn sprinkled with a little olive oil or a teaspoon of melted butter or margarine.
Deep Dark Chocolate Biscotti
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
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- 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup unsalted almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, flaxseed, soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine sugars, egg whites, and egg in a bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes. Add vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; stir until combined. Fold in chocolate and almonds. Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 6-inch-long roll. Arrange rolls 3 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat to a 1-inch thickness. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until firm.
3. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut rolls diagonally into 30 (1/2-inch) slices. Place, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°; bake 7 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake 7 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool on wire rack.
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Lisa Eisele, RD, CSO, LD, can be reached at (706) 473-5801.