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29 September is World Heart Day. This is a really important reminder that we all should be taking steps to look after our heart health, especially considering, heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death

A focus on heart health should not be reserved for “the elderly’ – heart health is relevant for everyone.

A particular group who needs to pay attention to heart health is menopausal and post-menopausal women, especially women who experience or have experienced premature menopause (ie before the age of 50).

This is because menopause results in changes in body fat distribution, reduced glucose tolerance, increased blood pressure, higher LDL-cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) and triglyceride levels, along with increased endothelia dysfunction and vascular inflammation. All of these changes are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

However, the good news is, we can all take measures to reduce our risk of CVD via specific diet and lifestyle approaches. I have shared heart friendly diet approaches previously HERE.

Many of us start our day with smoothies, especially come spring, so today, I am sharing 3 breakfast smoothies, which contain “heart friendly” and “surprise” ingredients which you may not otherwise think to put into a smoothie! These smoothies also make for a very satisfying snack!

Hope you enjoy!

 

Chocolate Golden Milk Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients
1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup raw almonds (skin on), soaked overnight, drained
1/3 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1 frozen banana, peeled, chopped
1-2 tbsp. raw cocoa or cacao
1-2 tsp. turmeric, fresh or ground
½ tsp. cinnamon, ground
¼ tsp nutmeg, ground
1-2 tsp. ginger, fresh or ground
Ice, optional

Method

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into a serving glass.

 

What’s so great about this for your heart?

Almonds (raw – skin on): high monounsaturated fatty acids known to assist in reducing unhealthy levels of cholesterol. Having the skin on also increases the fibre and nutrient/antioxidant content.

Cocoa: contains flavonoids a compound found to decrease formation of “bad” cholesterol and increase levels of “good” cholesterol through anti-inflammatory actions. When it comes to anti-oxidant qualities, the darker the better.

Turmeric: contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, beneficial for heart health.

Cinnamon: another spice rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which helps to protect against oxidative stress and may help to reduce fats in the blood.

Black beans: they are not only a source of protein, vitamins and minerals but also fibre and antioxidants. In fact, black beans have been studied for their ability to regulate postprandial blood sugar spikes in metabolic syndrome and improve insulin sensitivity.

 

Berry & Chickpea Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients
1 cup plant-based milk of choice
¾ cup blueberries frozen or fresh
½ banana, frozen, peeled and chopped
¼ avocado, skin and pip removed, chopped
1/3 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Handful kale leaves, chopped
1-2 fresh dates, chopped
Ice, optional

Method

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into a serving glass.

 

What’s so great about this for your heart?

Blueberries: Blueberries offer a rich source of anthocyanins (antioxidant compound), known to be protective against high blood pressure, a known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Avocado: high in monounsaturated fatty acids and known to assist in reducing unhealthy levels of cholesterol.

Chickpeas: great source of fibre which aids the removal of cholesterol from our body and helps with lowering blood pressure, they are also low in unhealthy fat and contain an array of heart supportive vitamins, minerals and antioxidant compounds.

Kale: natural compounds within kale help our liver clear unwanted cholesterol and also provide our body with anti-oxidants.

 

Sweet Potato and Orange Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients
½ cup sweet potato, skin removed, steamed
1 banana, peeled, chopped
Juice of 1 fresh orange
1 cup plant-based milk of choice
1-2 tbsp. oat bran or whole rolled oats
1-2 tsp. turmeric, fresh or ground
½ tsp. cinnamon, ground
¼ tsp nutmeg, ground
1-2 tsp. ginger, fresh or ground
1 tbsp. hemp/chia seeds
Ice, optional

Method

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into a serving glass.

 

What’s so great about this for your heart?

Oats and oat bran: Fibre is a great tool to help support heart health because fibre can help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and help us to maintain a healthy weight. Soluble fibre is particularly good for lowering cholesterol because it binds to cholesterol and helps with the removal of cholesterol from the body.

Sweet potato: source of soluble fibre and also rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene.

Turmeric: contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, beneficial for heart health.

Cinnamon: another spice rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which helps to protect against oxidative stress and may help to reduce fats in the blood.

Hemp/Chia: plant-based sources of omega-3 essential fats which must be consumed in the diet and exert anti-inflammatory effects.