This past February I wrote about 5 foods to brighten one’s mood during the dead of winter! Now as we head into the colorful fall season, I thought it would be similarly appropriate to present fall foods that uplift your health, mood and spirits.
Here are 5 of my favorites:
- Pumpkin Seeds: As a rich source of magnesium, tryptophan and zinc, 1 handful each day is a superb snack to help calm daily stressors and elevate your mood.
- Butternut Squash: Try 1/2 cup servings at least once weekly for a rich supply of heart healthy and mood boosting minerals and vitamins; they include potassium, manganese, vitamins A, E and B6.
- Parsnips: A less colorful cousin of the carrot, parsnips are low in calories, high in fiber, manganese and the mood boosting vitamin folate. Parsnips are delicious in soups or as a side dish, especially when combined with carrots. Try steaming or roasting 1/2 cup (approximately 2 medium parsnips) at least once a week during the upcoming months as part of a savory autumn meal.
- Sweet Potatoes: Ranked as the #1 food source of vitamin A, sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants, folate and vitamin B6. Enjoy at least 1 sweet potato each week (and raise your spirits) during the fall season .
- Cranberries: Cranberries are also rich in antioxidants as well as the brain protective and anti-inflammatory compound ursolic acid. Ursolic acid not only reduces growth of certain tumors but has also been shown to improve memory and reduce mood disorders, notably anxiety and depression. Try a handful of fresh or dried cranberries at least once each week and reap the benefits! Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. His latest book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.
In previous blogs, we’ve covered several “M” superfoods such as Moringa, Matcha and Maté so why not add Maca? This radish relative is native to Peru and has been used as a staple in Peruvian dishes for decades. More recently, a number of heart protective properties have been uncovered. They include powerful antioxidant effects and reductions in blood levels of glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Maca has also been long known to be an aphrodisiac with as little as 3 grams producing a desirable effect. Unless you live in Peru, I recommend purchasing organic raw maca in powder form. Just 1 teaspoon of Maca contains 5 grams to uplift mood, spirits and libido.
Check out our Maca Date Shake recipe shown below:
What you need: 1.5 teaspoons raw organic maca powder, 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 Medjool dates (chopped), 1/2 cup raw almonds or cashews, 1 cup almond milk, 1/4 cup goji berries, 1 tablespoon honey.
What you do: In a blender, combine all ingredients on high speed until smooth. Serve immediately as a single serving (or split into 2 servings). This heart healthy shake is enriched in protein (26 grams) and fiber (18 grams) and low in saturated fat (4 grams).
Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. His book, “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” contains 100 heart healthy, award winning recipes.
While exercise plays an important role for maintaining good health, one question that my patients commonly ask is how much exercise they need to reap cardiovascular benefits. It turns out that you do not need to run marathons or engage in rigorous activities to derive the advantages. What is most important is to be active; walking is arguably the easiest and most available activity to keep your heart young and healthy while limiting wear-and-tear of your joints (knees and hips).
Listed below are several useful tips related to physical activity that I recommend to my patients interested in keeping their hearts young (and keeping them young at heart).
- Aim to walk approximately 5 miles a day: Keep track of your daily activities using a pedometer or similar tracking device (iphones have a built-in “health app” that automatically tracks your daily activities). Every 2,000 steps equals 1mile; 10,000 steps is equivalent to 5 miles.
- Walking burns calories: If you weigh between 100-200 pounds, you can expect to burn 250-500 calories simply by walking 5 miles each day. Because 3500 calories is equal to 1 pound, adding 5 miles a day will result in weight loss (provided of course that you don’t increase food intake).
- Aim for a walking rate of 3-5 miles per hour (mph): When it comes to heart health, the sweet spot is walking at a “brisk” rate of 3 to 5 mph. If you are walking on a treadmill, start off with a 5-10 minute warmup period (2-3 mph), then engage in the higher walking rate for 20-30 minutes followed by a 5-10 minute cool down period.
- Arise and stretch every 20-30 minutes at work: If you have a sedentary job where you are assigned to a desk/computer, stand and stretch at least twice each hour.
- Build in light weight toning and stretching exercises: A healthy physical activity regimen should incorporate light weights and stretching to stabilize and improve balance & coordination in order to lower fall risk. Engaging in aerobic activities and weight toning exercises, lowers cardiovascular risk by 20-30%. If you have not participated but wish to begin such an exercise regimen, make sure to speak with your health care professional to ensure that it is safe for you.Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. His most recent book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.
This past week we’ve enjoyed daily treats of colorful, ripe and amazingly delicious figs from our local food market. While figs have been around for centuries, they remain underrated with respect to their high nutrient value. Just 2 medium-large figs daily provides an ample supply of potassium (230-270 mg), magnesium (15-20 mg) and soluble fiber (2-3 grams) that when combined with other fruits/vegetables help maintain normal heart rhythm, promote vascular health and lower cholesterol.
Recent Studies also suggest that figs possess anticancer properties. Suppression of tumor cells have been observed in breast, prostate and colon cancer. In animal models, the antioxidant compounds in figs have also been implicated in the attenuation of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s , Parkinson’s and Amyloidosis. Taken together, feasting on figs should be part of your dietary ritual for optimal health! Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. His most recent book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.
Earlier this week, a young appearing middle-aged woman came to see me because she was concerned that her cholesterol levels were too low. In fact her total cholesterol and LDL levels were less than 80 mg/dL (~2 mmol/L) and 35 mg/dL (~1 mmol/L), respectively; similar levels are observed in healthy newborn babies. Her low cholesterol levels were not the result of a low cholesterol diet and she was not taking any cholesterol lowering medications. It turns out that she was lucky enough to have inherited a protective gene that will keep her “bad” cholesterol levels low for the rest of her life and her blood vessels free from significant blockage, provided of course that she maintains an otherwise healthy lifestyle.
Not too long ago, concern reigned high that low cholesterol was unhealthy. Because cholesterol is a vital structural component of cell membranes in all of our tissues and organs including the brain, naysayers suggested that very low cholesterol levels, would pose increased risk of neurologic and psychiatric issues. Their concerns voiced in books and other outlets that garnered considerable media attention included depression as well as homicidal or suicidal tendencies.
However, the “cholesterol myth” has finally come to pass for 2 reasons:
- Natural selection studies have demonstrated that patients with very low LDL due to a genetic alteration (such as the woman I presented) also have a tendency toward longevity.
- Medications that drive LDL well below 70 mg/dL is associated with a reduced risk of future cardiovascular events. In fact, the recent FOURIER study found that lowering LDL all the way down to 10 mg/dL continued to be associated with reduced cardiac risk. We anxiously await the new cholesterol guidelines to determine whether there will be new LDL lowering targets based upon the level of cardiovascular risk. In the meantime, keeping LDL levels down with lifestyle and medication when needed has been shown time and again to effectively reduce your overall cardiovascular risk. Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. Everything you need to know about natural ways to lower your cholesterol is discussed in his latest book, “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.