By: Muffie Kruse [registered dietitian & wellness coach]
You may not think much about your heart as it pumps away faithfully. The first heart cell starts to beat as early as 4 weeks (you start out as a miracle!). Your heart beats about 100,000 times a day, and each minute it pumps 1.5 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels! Isn’t our Creator amazing?! Every cell in your body receives blood from your heart, except your corneas (protective outer layer of your eyes). So your heart is vital both spiritually and physically.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
The Bible describes the heart of a person as primarily a spiritual organ that drives a person’s attitude, emotions, and behavior. Our physical heart is such an intricately woven muscle, and its connection to the physical body resembles our spiritual connection to our Creator, as we were created in the image of God. So it is important we steward our bodies by first taking care of our hearts! Why? Because God does want us physically well and healthy!
The apostle John writes,
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” -3 John 1:2 (NIV)
Our health is a blessing and gift from God; food is also a gift from God! Food is His provision. Good nutrition is one way we keep our physical hearts strong which helps to support our service for the Lord. We are better able to carry out the work God has set out for us when we are completely well. An unhealthy body slows us down and hinders us from being a good witness to others. I know that when I’m feeling sick, I don’t have the energy to speak or pour into others, or even carry on whatever task I need to do. I also don’t have the ability to think as clearly. This affects how I worship my Lord with ALL my HEART and STRENGTH and MIND.
So how do we keep our hearts strong? I have 5 food suggestions for you to incorporate into your daily and weekly menu!
5 foods for heart health:
1. Dark chocolate. OK, maybe this shouldn’t be #1 on the list, but now that I have your attention, it’s true! Dark chocolate contains a potent class of antioxidants (compounds that ward off disease and aging) called flavonoids. The higher the percentage of cacao in a chocolate bar, the darker the chocolate and the higher it is in flavonoid antioxidants. Dark chocolate helps to relax your blood vessels, promotes healthy circulation and plays a role in healthy blood pressure levels. As with many of the finer things in life, less can be more. Savor (not devour!) one ounce of dark chocolate a few times per week.
2. Whole soyfoods, such as soynuts, edamame, soymilk, tofu or tempeh. Research shows that soyfoods may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Intimidated by tofu? Try my Chocolate-Raspberry Espress-yo-love Parfait recipe, which also includes dark chocolate!
3. Nuts. Aim to eat one ounce (a small handful) a day. Nuts are a rich source of heart-healthy fats, fiber, plant protein, essential vitamins and minerals and antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation and increase satiety. Top choices are almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews. If you get bored with just snacking on a handful of nuts, try mixing them into popcorn or a trailmix, into oatmeal or yogurt, into a stir-fry, into pancake batter, or onto a salad!
4. Oats & oatmeal. Oats are an excellent source of fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and helps to keep you feeling full!
5. Salmon. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish per week. Fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines (my favorite!), are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help to lower cholesterol and boost your immune system. Fish not your thing? Then try plant-based sources of omega-3s such as Chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and seaweed (hello sushi!).
If you are trying to make healthier choices, don’t go about it alone! Find someone or a group of friends to share your healthy endeavors with, and ask for guidance and strength from the Holy Spirit (not from your own will-power!). Remember, when you purify your heart physically, your entire body functions as God’s masterpiece.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” –Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)