February is American Heart Month, an important time to discuss and learn about the disease that leads all other causes of death here in the United States. I’ve written before about this annual event and how eating the fruits that we grow can help promote heart health, so this week’s post is a recap of how one of our fruits – apples – benefit the heart, and a roundup of heart healthy recipes packed with them and other heart healthy foods.
The famous saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” certainly applies to heart, or cardiovascular, doctors, and here’s why:
- Apples are a great source of dietary fiber, with 4 grams in a medium sized apple. Increased fiber consumption has been linked to reduced heart attack risk and death from coronary heart disease.
- Apples contain lots of antioxidants. These molecules prevent free radicals from damaging the body’s cells during oxidation. Oxidative stress leads to the onset of many chronic diseases, including heart disease.
- One research study found that participants who ate an apple a day for 4 weeks lowered blood levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) by as much as 40%. High cholesterol is a precursor to heart disease.
- Apples contain 14% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties that may protect against coronary artery disease
- Quercetin, an antioxidant found in apples, fights inflammation in the body, and may prevent plaque from forming in arteries.
4 Heart Healthy Apple Recipes
Pinata Apple, Papaya & Celery Salad: Apples aren’t the only superfood for your heart. Papaya is rich in the antioxidants vitamin C and A, which help prevent the build-up of cholesterol. Like apples, papaya is a good source of fiber which has been show to lower cholesterol levels. Celery not only adds crunch to this salad, but also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which promote cardiovascular health. Rounding out this salad dish are pecans, nuts made up of monounsaturated fats (good fats) like oleic acid that prevent coronary artery disease and strokes.
Apple-Carrot Morning Glory Muffins: Some mornings call for a little treat, and this filling breakfast muffin recipe does just the trick, without harming your heart. Though mostly touted for their eye health benefits, carrots are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. One research study found the orange color of carrots to be most protective against cardiovascular disease, when compared to foods in other color groups: green, red/purple, and white. This recipe is also made with sunflower seed oil, which although still an oil that contains some saturated fat, is mostly made up of monounsaturated fats, which are the recommended cooking fats for keeping cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
No-Dairy Berry and Sweet Apple Smoothie: Anytime you are blending up fresh fruits and vegetables, you are probably enjoying a drink that is good for your heart. However, the deep hues of fresh berries and the use of almond milk/yogurt makes this apple smoothie recipe extra good for your heart. Berries are a good source of polyphenols like anthocyanin’s, which give the fruits its deep hues and may protect your heart by lowering the risk of hypertension. Almonds, a nut made up of healthy fats, adds to the heart healthiness of this delicious smoothie.
Kale and Apple Salad: I couldn’t write a post about heart healthy foods without including the superfood called kale. The leafy green gets lots of health praise, which extends to its ability to help the heart. Kale is a great source of alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that promotes heart health. It also is rich in vitamins C and A, and like apples, contains quercetin, a phytonutrient that fights inflammation and prevents plaque from forming in arteries.