We should all be concerned about the health of our hearts — and I guess I can say that both figuratively and literally! Both happiness and the state of our coronary arteries are crucial to a long and healthy life. Many of us, myself included, have heart disease that runs in our families. It’s impossible to escape the genetic-predisposition that makes us vulnerable to the build-up of plaque that clogs the arteries feeding our heart and leads to heart attack and stroke.
But there are many things we can do to mitigate our susceptibility. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is an important component to a heart healthy lifestyle and longevity. But exercise alone is not enough. We also need a diet rich in heart healthy foods.
Luckily, heart healthy foods can also be delicious! Look for foods that are low sodium, cholesterol free, and high in omega 3 fatty acids, flavonoids (antioxidants), potassium, fiber and protein. Here are seven delectable heart healthy gift ideas that will be sure to please.
Fresh and Dried Fruit
A gift basket of fresh and dried seasonal fruits is always a nutritious choice and a great heart healthy gift idea. The best fruits for heart health are the ones with high fiber content, Vitamins such as A, C and E, minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, and flavonoids.
Some of the best choices are apples, apricots, berries, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi and peaches. Avocados are also especially heart healthy because of the fatty acids.
I was so happy when I learned that nuts were one of the best heart healthy foods you can eat! I love nuts and eat a large handful every day either in my morning yogurt or oatmeal, or as a pre-dinner snack with a glass of red wine. Although caloric, nuts are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and protein.
Any nuts are fine, roasted or raw, except that they should not be salted, if you want to create a heart healthy food gift. I make my own nut mix and will often bring it to friends as a gift. I’ll put them in a glass jar and tie a ribbon around the neck. My favorite nuts are raw cashews, roasted almonds, pistachios, and walnuts and I like to include some raisins for the chewy consistency.
Dark chocolate is heart healthy because it contains flavonoids, which can reduce arterial inflammation, as well as protein and fiber. Dark chocolate is also more nutritious than milk or white chocolate because it contains less sugar. Look for chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and is low sodium or sodium-free. A selection of dark chocolate bars wrapped in tissue and placed into a gift bag makes a lovely heart healthy gift that anyone would be happy to receive.
I know that oatmeal isn’t the first thing to come to mind when thinking of a gift, but oatmeal is simply one of the best concentrated sources of fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins and one of the most highly recommended foods for heart health. What if you could find a gift constructed around a unique artisanal oatmeal? We have just that!
Our Heart Healthy Beat #2 gift, shown in the photo, contains fresh and dried fruits, nuts, dark chocolate and oatmeal. This oatmeal is made from organic non-GMO whole grains and oats milled in Chappaqua, NY by Farm to Table. A variety of grains bring a complexity of tastes and diversity of textures to intrigue the palate. This oatmeal is one of my favorite cold weather breakfasts and I also like to eat it as a power boosting snack before a bike ride… with a handful of nuts, of course!
Legumes are a class of vegetables in which the dried fruit of the plant is contained within a shell or a pod. Legumes are heart healthy because they are a great source of non-animal protein, are packed with the minerals and vitamins important to heart health, and are high in fiber. But how do you make a heart healthy food gift out of legumes?
Try our fabulous Falafel Chips by Flamous that we include in our largest Heart Healthy gift (Heart Healthy Beat #3, shown right). Made from black beans, chick peas, fava beans and pinto beans, these chips are just as addicting as tortilla or potato chips but without all the salt and fat. You won’t feel like you’re missing out with this healthy alternative. And they’re organic too!
Omega 3 fatty acids are thought to be beneficial in the prevention of heart disease. These fats are called “essential fats” because our bodies can’t produce them from other sources so we need to ingest them from our foods. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids. So we developed a heart healthy gift idea that is centered around tuna belly and trout. Now how can that be appealing?
Well, we start with delicate and delicious, lightly salted canned trout and tuna from the Cole Company. The Cole Company is known to care about sustainable resources and catches the fish using fishing poles (how old fashioned!). These fish make a fantastic dinner in a salad or on a cracker. I always have some on hand in the kitchen cupboard.
The rest of the gift includes other items perfect for storage in the pantry and all part of a heart healthy Mediterranean diet, such as couscous, olive oil, Herbes de Provence, almonds, and dried apricots.
Probably the very best news is that red wine can be part of a heart healthy diet so it makes the perfect heart healthy gift idea! Consider adding red wine to a food gift such as those in our Heart Healthy Gift collection for the ultimate heart healthy gift.
Heart healthy living and heart healthy gifting doesn’t have to be hard!
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