The Importance of Keeping Your Heart Healthy with Nutrition
The heart is one of our most important organs, it’s job is to supply our bodies with blood, oxygen, and vital nutrients. It’s also responsible for removing harmful and toxic wastes from our bodies so we can stay in tip-top shape. Although we would like to think our hearts can play superhero forever, there are a lot of factors that can negatively impact and alter these great qualities.
Your heart is responsible for keeping you alive, each and every single day. And though you’re probably thinking “duh!” – it’s something we often forget to appreciate.
In the field of nutrition, we’re always talking about foods that are good for your heart and using phrases like “heart healthy fats,” but very rarely are we explaining why these foods are good for your heart, and what can happen when you aren’t getting a sufficient amount of these foods. Author of Heart: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Heroic Organ, Johannes Heinrich von Borstel is a paramedic, cardiologist to-be, and one of the best Science Slammers in Germany. In his newly published book, Johannes explains the importance of taking care of your heart and how nutrition can play a major role in your heart’s health.
Being one of my favorite chapters in this book, chapter five, “Eating Your Heart’s Content” dives into the realm of nutrition and the significance that a healthy and balanced diet can have on the body. Throughout this section, Johannes explains omega-3’s and omega 6’s, how to eat yourself fit, the importance of plants and earth grown nutrients in your diet, and the effects of sugar on your heart.
To provide you all with some inside info on the book, here’s a summary of some of the helpful nutrition tips found in Heart.
Eat Yourself Fit Tip #1
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
You all know how I feel about trendy diets – insert eye rolling and nodding head here – but cutting sugar is one trend that I can’t ignore. I hate to even call it a trend because I feel like it creates such a negative and short-term persona, but I think it’s more of just a harsh realization at this point. If you didn’t know, I try to stay as far away from processed sugars as possible. I love to enjoy fruit and natural sugars, but anything refined and processed is a no go for me. And after reading this section in Heart, I was so glad I made the change!
Johannes explains how sugar is truly like a drug for our bodies. Now before you do the eye roll/head shake, just think about it. Just like many stimulants, sugar releases the hormone dopamine, aka our “happiness hormone.” This hormone can not only persuade use to consumer more of what makes up “happy” but also changes the way we diet. The author explains, “Just like a junkie looking for a fix, our body demands increasing amounts of sugar at ever-shorter intervals — preferably in the form of chocolate or other sweet treats — if we don’t keep it in check from the outset.” In other words, when we consume sugar on a regular basis, our bodies will begin to crave it more often and cause an even greater addiction.
He ends this passage with, “We are the dealer and we have the power to decide: will our best customer get an apple or a cream cake today?” And I could not agree more. We are the only ones in control of our hunger and feelings. We have the choice to lean off of the bad stuff and break the habit for good, or continue to play into it and further consume toxins. Step one of eating your self fit and healthy involves gaining that control back and choosing the best possible options, everyday!
Eat Yourself Fit Tip #2
Swap White Flour for Wholemeal
If I could only recommend one change in someone’s diet, this would be it! Swapping out refined white flours for more wholesome options such as whole grains or wholemeal flours, is the easiest yet most effective change you could possibly make. Refined white flours are used in pastas, breads, cakes, etc. and provide little to no nutrients to the body. White flours are completely stripped of any vitamins and minerals that are extremely beneficial to the body. But before you think “how in the world could they do that to consumers!” – just remember their are always options! Yes these nutrient-less options still remain on our shelves, but no you do not have to buy them (nor should you!) Choosing whole grain provides you with fiber, nutrients, vitamins and minerals – all things that white flours cannot do!
Johannes explains how the heart is surprisingly effected by white and refined flours because they break down to nothing more than sugar. He explains that without swapping white flour for wholemeal, you can run the risk of diabetes and increase deposits on the blood-vessel walls furthermore causing cardiovascular (heart) disease.
Eat Yourself Fit Tip #3
Eat More Antioxidants
Another catchy, yet super important word in the nutrition world! Antioxidants protect our cells from oxidation and the harmful effects of free radicals in the blood. These superhero type qualities are found in most fruits and vegetables, and even some supplements. Johannes describes one berry in particular to be extremely beneficial for the heart due to it’s protective properties and that is blackcurrants. He also explains how melons such as watermelon and honeydew should become regulars on your menu. Much to my surprise, Johannes even explains how watermelon can reduce high blood pressure!
Another beneficial food that Johannes mentions is the wood ear mushroom. He explains that mushrooms often have a very similar effect on the platelets of the blood and help to reduce high blood pressure.
Eat Yourself Fit Tip #4
Eat Your (Colorful) Vegetables
Your mother did know best! Eating your colorful vegetables is so important for maintaining a very healthy heart. Phytonutrients (phytochemicals, antioxidants, flavonoids) are healthy compounds found in plants. “Pomegranates contain blood-pressure-lowering polyphenols, garlic has sulphides which help prevent thromboses, pulses contain anti-inflammatory saponins, and almost all plants contain phytosterols, which reduce blood-cholesterol levels” Johannes explains. All in all, these plant-nutrients and compounds are what keep our hearts properly functioning.
Consuming 3 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, especially colorful vegetables, is a great and easy guideline to making sure you’re consuming enough vitamins and minerals per day!
Eat Yourself Fit Tip #5
Enjoy Ginger, Garlic, and the Humble Onion
I don’t know about you, but ginger, garlic, and onion are three of my absolute favorite ingredients to cook with! So to read about their benefits, was icing on my cake!
Despite how incredibly flavorful these foods are, they actually have a ton of beneficial elements to them. Johannes explains how both ginger and garlic have blood-thinning properties, thus promoting healthy blood flow throughout the body, especially to the organs and tissues. Garlic can also have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels because of this!
As he refers to “The Humble Onion,” the author describes how the onion’s powers actually date back into ancient times. “Onions aren’t only tasty, they also help thin the blood, thereby reducing the risk of blood clots. And they have a beneficial effect on cholesterol metabolism and blood-sugar levels” Johannes explains.
Curious to learn more? Check out Heart: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Heroic Organ by Johannes Hinrich von Borstel, published June 2017 by Greystone Books.
Heart: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Heroic Organ
Over the last few months, I’ve been solely focused on learning more about our gut, the benefits of natural foods, and even holistic nutrition. With that, the heart was never something I took into much consideration. I talked about eating plenty of omega 3’s and 6’s and healthy cholesterol, but I never stopped to think about why.
After I was generously gifted a pre-copy and expert of this book to enjoy and share with all of you, I was completely blown away with how much this book has taught me. Our hearts are our lives (quite literally) and without it, we would no be here. It’s scary to think that we could be sabotaging our own lives just by not properly caring for our hearts and providing them with nutrients that it needs.
I thought this book did an incredible job within it’s short 10 chapters, at explaining the anatomy and physiology of the heart, as well as how we should take care of it. Johannes Heinrich von Borstel developed such an inviting and friendly tone that even the hardest bites of science were easy to understand. His take on the importance of heart health comes from both med school and his real life situations as a paramedic. Johannes does an incredible job at informing without lecturing, and explaining while teaching.
I am very grateful to have had this opportunity with Greystone Books and Johannes himself! Real, yet easy to understand information, is hard to come by now a days and it’s hard to tell what is fact and what is fiction. However, there is no doubt that what Johannes has to say is anything but the truth! As a nutrition student, I am constantly learning and developing my own sense of health. I will definitely be using this book in reference for many years to come!
* Thank you to both Greystone Books for partnering with me for this book review, and to my subscribers for supporting THM and the companies that we love.