Heart Healthy Wild Blueberries are Perfect for Valentine’s Day
By Anne Mauney, MPH, RD
Hello and Happy February! Did you know that February is National Heart Month?
As a Registered Dietitian, I’m all about bringing awareness to heart disease and how people can prevent it. So let’s get the bad news out of the way first: heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, contributing to 1 in 4 deaths. Risk factors for heart disease are things like poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, obesity, and diabetes.
The good news? Since heart disease risk factors are mostly lifestyle related, heart disease can often be prevented by making healthier choices, like eating better and exercising.
The even better news is that our delicious little blue friends, Wild Blueberries, are a great way to do this!
As I shared in last month’s post, Wild Blueberries are a rich source of a type of phytochemicals called polyphenols, which boast a wide array of protective health benefits due to their antioxidant qualities. In fact, research has shown that including Wild Blueberries consistently in diets may help improve or prevent cardiovascular disease due to a reduction in chronic inflammation and improved lipid profiles. (Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.)
The flavonoid anthocyanin, a phytochemical found in blue-pigmented fruit, is particularly high in Wild Blueberries compared to regular blueberries. A recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who eat three or more weekly servings of berries may reduce their risk of heart attack by up to 33%. Another study, a recent randomized controlled trial, found that daily consumption of blueberries helped to reduce blood pressure in post-menopausal women with pre- and stage 1 hypertension (high blood pressure). This is because anthocyanins are believed to help dilate arteries, helping to counter plaque buildup. There’s good news for men too. Another study found that Wild Blueberries can improve vascular function in healthy men, even from intake of just ¾ cup a day.
Bottom line: Wild Blueberries are both delicious AND functional – there’s no reason not to eat up, especially since they are available year round in the frozen food section.
To inspire you to eat for your heart this month, here’s a fun recipe to try. I know what you’re thinking – wait, scones? I thought I was supposed to be eating healthy? Well, these are healthy! Not only are they packed with antioxidants from the Wild Blueberries, but they also boast protein from the Greek yogurt and milk, and fiber from the whole wheat pastry flour. Even better is that they have very little added sugar – only 3 tablespoons – and instead get their bright flavor and sweetness from the lemon zest and Wild Blueberries. This would make the perfect breakfast in bed on Valentine’s Day, either for your significant other, or as a treat to yourself! Good for the heart, both literally and figuratively. Enjoy!
This heart healthy breakfast also makes a great pre-workout snack – enjoy it before heading out for your workout of choice! Need some workout inspiration? Here’s one of my recent favorite workouts – you can customize it to make it as short (or long) as you like.
For more tasty and easy Wild Blueberry recipes, check out my post from last month – it includes a couple full day’s worth of breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner ideas!
Anne Mauney is a Washington, D.C. based registered dietitian and the writer behind the food and fitness blog fANNEtastic food, which she started as a way to motivate others to lead happier, healthier lives through nutrition and exercise. Anne has a Masters of Public Health in Nutrition and owns a private practice where she helps clients to lose or maintain weight, feel healthier, and improve their relationships with food. Her fitness tips and recipes have been featured in The Huffington Post, Glamour, SHAPE, Fitness Magazine, Health Magazine, The Washington Post, and Woman’s Day. Check out her blog for easy healthy recipes, health tips, and more. You can also find her on Twitter @fANNEtasticfood, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.