The South is my home and along with a good southern upbringing I was also raised on a good Southern diet. Down here it isn't 8 glasses of water a day that keeps us healthy, it's the 8 glasses of gravy **kidding**.
Like every area of the country, we struggle with heart disease in the south. It's the number one cause of death in the U.S. and there are plenty of reasons why heart disease is such a killer.
Top of the list has to be diet. It's surprising when you consider all of the GOOD things we can eat that actually HELP our hearts. Here are 6 that are probably in your home right now.
1. Cayenne Chili Pepper
Charlotte likes everything spicy (why do you think she married me?) but peppers of any kind are a staple in our diet. Researchers say that putting just a little hot chili powder on food may help prevent a spike in insulin levels after meals. An Australian study showed that simply adding chili to a hamburger meal produced lower insulin levels in overweight volunteers.
Tip: Chili powder is a blend of five spices and it's a good substitute for salt in recipes.
2. Red Wine and Resveratrol
Red wine is our go-to drink at Boomer Brief HQ. It's good to know that it's also a heart-healthy choice. Resveratrol and catechins, two antioxidants in red wine, may protect artery walls and alcohol can also boost HDL (that's the GOOD cholesterol).
Tip: Don't go crazy on this tip - keep it to one drink a day for women; one to two drinks for men. Too much alcohol actually hurts the heart.
How can you tell the "virgin" olive oil from the shall we say, "more experienced" olive oil? It's an old joke, but the truth is that extra virgin olive oil comes from the first press of olives. It's especially rich in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. Using olive oil to replace saturated fat (think butter), it can help lower cholesterol levels. Polyphenols may protect blood vessels.
Tip: Use olive oil in salads, on cooked veggies and with bread (we like to add in a little cracked black pepper for an added kick).
These slightly-sweet veggies are a staple of Charlotte's diet. She likes the crunch, but the delicious dish also helps control blood sugar levels and can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Carrots are a top cholesterol-fighting food, thanks to ample amounts of soluble fiber.
Tip: Add shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce and muffins for a heart-healthy boost.
5. Low-Fat Yogurt
I eat low-fat yogurt for breakfast just about every day. It's a good way to help control high blood pressure, and the calcium and potassium are important minerals.
Tip: For a little crunch and some added fiber, sprinkle some Grape-Nuts cereal into your low-fat yogurt.
If you're like me you can't get going in the morning without your coffee. Turns out that's not really a bad thing. Coffee and tea may help protect your heart by preventing type 2 diabetes. Recent studies have shown that people who drink 3-4 cups a day may cut their risk by 25% -- and even decaffeinated coffee works.
Tip: Drink it black to limit fat and calories.