American Heart Month

For many centuries, the Chinese have used food as medicine.  Following Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, foods are categorized as hot, warm, cool and cold, although it is not always intuitive which foods would fall into a particular category.  In addition, there are five tastes, one for each of the five elements (earth, water, fire, metal, and wood) with which an organ is also associated.

Up until recently, Western medicine has not treated food as medicine, and while scientists do not subscribe to the above complicated scheme, they are recognizing that many foods can be associated with measurable beneficial effects.  In the past you might recognize that cod liver oil was used to provide vitamins, and liver was eaten to boost iron levels (oh joy), but now there are many more delicious choices.

In consideration of American Heart Month, here are some heart healthy foods to eat.  Most of us are aware that studies have shown that oatmeal and oat bran can be useful foods to help control cholesterol, but did you know that you can also eat barley, beans (eat them slowly for digestion with less “problems”), peas, and apples to gain the benefits of insoluble fiber?  Fatty fish such as salmon and trout provide good fats and omega-3 fatty acids.  Walnuts, tofu, soybeans, canola oil, and flax seeds supply alpha-linoleic acid.  Fruits and nuts furnish antioxidants.

If you go on the Internet looking for a heart healthy diet, you will find admonitions to keep your intake of fats and saturated fates to less than 30% and 10% of your total calories, respectively.  You will also be told to not go over 300 mg. of cholesterol, to control your calories, and limit sodium.  Whoa, that sounds like work trying to figure all that out!

Instead, make slow changes in your habits in a healthy direction by trying some of the following suggestions.  Eat more fruits.  At supper, choose between having bread or a starchy vegetable.  Cook brown rice, barley, lentils, or wheat berries with your white rice to give you more fiber.  Eat less meat and more vegetables by making stir fries and soups.  To make stir fries easier, check out the pre-made Chinese, Indian, and Thai sauces available at Trader Joe’s and other specialty groceries.  Add wheat germ to pancakes and bran to muffin mixes.  Limit eating out or ordering take-away; those foods taste good because they have lots of added fat.  If you do eat out, put aside a portion to bring home for a meal the next day.  Instead of a rich dessert, have fruit, a square of dark chocolate, instant pudding with low fat milk, or a bowl of cereal with some fruit or nuts.

While you are here for an appointment, feel free to ask me questions about nutrition, cooking and recipes, or changing your diet.  I love to talk food.  You can also check out www.americanheart.org for diet and nutrition advice.

Taking Care Wellness is a South Portland massage practice started by Leslie Girmscheid, MD, NCTMB in Needham, Massachusetts in 2001.  In 2008 she moved to Cape Elizabeth, and she now continues to practice relaxation and orthopedic massage in South Portland.  Her new South Portland massage practice is located at 27 Ocean St. Suite #2 , 04106.