Six Indulgent Ways to Help Protect Your Heart

Taking care of your heart is not just about exercise and losing weight. While additional studies are needed, new and emerging research suggests that each of the following may be pleasurable ways to help boost heart health. (Moderation is key, though, with every one!) Protect your ticker with these heart-right moves.

Drink coffee
Coffee has long been linked to a reduced risk for diabetes, a disease marked by high levels of blood sugar that threaten the heart. And now experts understand more about coffee’s potential protective effects. A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who regularly drank decaf or regular coffee at lunchtime had a reduced risk of type-2 diabetes compared to those who didn’t drink java. What does coffee have to do with diabetes? The study’s researchers believe that the beverage’s nutrients may help slow digestion and help support healthy blood sugar levels. Other new and emerging research suggests that coffee consumption helps support the cardiovascular system by fending off chronic inflammation and promoting the production of HDL “good” cholesterol. You can drink to that!

Sleep more
Recent research from Wake Forest University linked sleep deprivation to belly fat, which plays a big role in inflammation. So go ahead and ditch the guilt: Hit the snooze button and aim to clock at least six to eight hours each night.

Nibble on dark chocolate Several studies have shown that chocolate may benefit more than just your taste buds. Most recently, a German study that tracked subjects for 10 years found that chocolate eaters had healthier hearts. More specifically, compared to those who ate less chocolate, people who ate about 1 ounce of chocolate per day had lower blood pressure and a lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Flavanoids, the nutrients found in cocoa, support healthy blood vessels and overall heart health. To get the most benefit with the fewest calories enjoy about an ounce of dark chocolate per day.

Seek stress relief
Taking a time out for self-care such as a getting a pedicure, doing some journaling or taking a walk in nature can help you stay clear-headed, supports healthy blood pressure levels and reduces your reaction to stress, all of which helps your heart.

Eat popcorn
A recent study from the University of Scranton found that many whole-grain foods like popcorn are as rich as fruits and vegetables in polyphenols, a type of heart-healthy antioxidant. Opt for air-popped popcorn sprinkled with a little olive oil or a tablespoon of melted Smart Balance® Light Original Buttery Spread with Flax, or try a low-fat microwave pop, such as Smart Balance® Smart ‘n Healthy™ Popcorn.

Spend time with friends Carve out a couple of hours to get together with friends regularly and your body and mind will thank you. People with many social ties tend to have lower blood pressure, they’re less likely to smoke and they’re more likely to be physically active.

A tip from us: Although consuming pastries and cookies is not going to help boost your heart health, if you are a baker or enjoy baked goods every now and then, swap out regular butter with Smart Balance® 50/50 Butter Butter Blend Original. Half butter, half buttery spread, Smart Balance® Butter Blend products are designed for cooking and baking. This butter substitute delivers 28 percent less saturated fat (5g per serving) and half the cholesterol (15 mg per serving) of pure butter (7g and 30 mg, respectively). Just make an even swap, 1 cup of your favorite Smart Balance® Butter Blend for 1 cup of regular butter when baking your favorite muffins, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, cornbread and other comfort foods. Click here for recipes and consult our Food Plan for other great tips.


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