Tagged heart health

Spirulina Spirulina

(I hope the majority of you just said the title of this in the mouse’s voice from Cinderella)

Spiru- what? Spiru- who? Spiru- where have you been all my life?!  But seriously… what is spirulina, you ask? It is a type of blue-green microalgae (stay with me now) that is packed with nutrients and known for it’s health benefits. Spirulina has been around for a very long time… think Aztecs. It can be found in most health food stores in the form of tablets, capsules, flakes or dark green powder.  Before it makes its way to the store, it is first found in very alkaline freshwater and saltwater sources, where it is grown and harvested.

Spirulina is used in many different cuisines, but is probably used the most by those who follow a plant-based diet due to it’s bioavailable, easy-to-digest proteins (4 grams per tablespoon).  Not only is it an excellent protein source but it is also a great source of other nutrients.  One tablespoon (7 grams) of spirulina contains:

 

  • 20 calories
  • 1.7 grams of digestible carbohydrate
  • All essential amino acids, making it a complete protein!
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Chlorophyll
  • Copper (21% of RDA)
  • Significant amounts of Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Zinc and small amounts of most other nutrients needed by the human body such as Calcium, Niacin, Iron and B Vitamins.

But that’s not all!  Spirulina has other health benefits.  One of those is in the area of heart health.  Studies have shown that spirulina can lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and sometimes may raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. Other studies have shown spirulina reduces blood pressure.

In addition to heart health, another potential benefit of spirulina is blood sugar control.  With more than 29 million of adults being Diabetic in America, this could prove to be a very important supplement.

Spirulina is also a great source of antioxidants such as phycocyanin, which help protect our bodies from oxidative damage.  Oxidative damage contributes to inflammation, cancer and other diseases. Spirulina is specifically well studied in the area of oral cancer and has been shown to have positive effects on cancerous lesions in the mouth.

Studies have shown improved symptoms of allergic rhinitis with spirulina use. What the heck is allergic rhinitis? If you suffer from this you may know but for those that don’t, allergic rhinitis is also known as hay fever.

Because of the strong smell and taste of spirulina, some prefer to take it in tablet/capsule form, but most people use the powder in smoothies. Bananas do a great job of masking the earthy flavor of Spirulina. Others have added it to things such as pesto, energy balls, tea and even… (wait for it…) no-bake cheesecake!

Dark Chocolate Detox Bark

February is American Heart Month! My family health history has proven to me that I have a ticking time bomb nestled in my chest, so heart health has always been extremely important to me. But just because I like to look out for my heart, doesn’t mean I miss out on delicious desserts. In fact, the ingredients in these little treasures can help defend against heart disease and loads of other illnesses.????????????????????????????????????

Bark Ingredients:

Dark Chocolate – Sometimes I think the main heart benefit of dark chocolate is the relaxing feeling you get when it hits your tongue (AKA euphoria), but experts say there’s a whole lot more involved (AKA science). Lucky for us, dark chocolate contains the highest amount of flavanols, which are a type of flavonoid. Our body naturally produces toxins on a daily basis and antioxidants, such as flavonoids, help fight against the damage toxins can cause over time, like the build up of plaque in our arteries. Flavanols also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow – so three cheers for dark chocolate!

Nuts (Pistachios, Almonds, and Walnuts) – Nuts tend to get a bad wrap because of their fat content, but a little goes a long way since they are filled with healthy monounsaturated fat. A study done in 2008 by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition showed that just two servings of pistachios can help drastically lower LDL and total cholesterol. The unsaturated fats found in nuts can protect your heart and raise seratonin levels, which will help boost  your mood. Nuts also contain a good amount of fiber and plant sterols to help lower cholesterol, Vitamin E to help decrease plaque build up, and L-arginine to help make the blood vessels more flexible.

Pumpkin Seeds – At first we decided to add the pumpkin seeds because they are such a beautiful color, but it turns out these beauties are also packed full of healthy nutrients for your heart. The biggest powerhouse is Magnesium – a mineral that most Americans are deficient in. Magnesium can help regulate blood pressure and help prevent cardiac arrest or a stroke because of its role in helping the heart pump.

Dried Fruit (Cherries and Blueberries) – Just like dark chocolate, dried fruits contain a hefty amount of antioxidants, especially polyphenols. All of those antioxidants will help improve blood flow and keep the heart pumping for generations to come.

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  1. Line an 8×8 pan with wax paper.
  2. Break up 8 ounces of dark chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave safe container.
  3. Microwave 60 seconds and stir. Place back in microwave for another 30 seconds, stir and repeat until chocolate is melted completely.
  4. Pour melted chocolate into the 8×8 lined pan and let cool for 3 to 5 minutes (do not allow chocolate to set completely).
  5. Top with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
  6. Eat it.