With Valentine’s Day fast approaching (and February also being American Heart Month), I thought it would be a good time to touch on heart health for this special occasion. From exercise to scrumptious heart-healthy food and drink, there are numerous options if you want to treat someone to a gift that will ensure a happy and healthy heart. Here is a list filled with some sweet ideas your significant other is sure to love.
Cookbooks: Numerous cookbooks are available that offer low-fat, low-cholesterol recipes for
people with heart disease — or who simply want to make sure they have a healthy heart. Look for books written by experts such as a registered dietitian or a well-known organization such as the American Heart Association (AHA). Some options include the AHA’s latest “Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook” ($14.39 on Amazon.com) and offerings by Cooking Light Magazine.
Dark chocolate: Opt for a plain dark, bittersweet chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa), rather than white or milk chocolates that have less of the beneficial nutrients known to help the heart including antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. For example, Ghirardelli’s Midnight Reverie bars offer a luxuriously deep and velvety 86 percent Cacao dark chocolate ($4.55 each on ghirardelli.com).
Fruit bouquet: Fruits are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber — and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits may help you control your weight and blood pressure, which can lead to better heart health. All fruits are good, especially raspberries, which are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, along with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and red grapes. Head to Edible Arrangements to find the Valentine’s Day Bouquet, a beautiful, fresh fruit arrangement loaded with pineapple hearts, strawberries and red grapes ($59 at www.ediblearrangements.com).
Green tea: This is one of the healthiest teas you can drink, as it contains powerful antioxidants that protect your body from harmful free radicals. How about giving your love a kit with loose green tea (organic, if you can find it), a tea ball, and a special mug. Celestial Seasonings and The Republic of Tea (www.republicoftea.com) carry an array of green tea including flavored, full-leaf, and decaffeinated.
Nuts and seeds: There are many specialty websites selling nuts. A great option is Nuts.com, which offers everything from organic trail mix — a tasty and healthy mix of organic sunflower seeds, pepitas, seedless raisins, almonds, walnuts, cranberries, banana chips, brazil nuts, and cashews ($7.99 a pound bag) — to English walnut halves ($11.99 a pound). Did I mention that nibbling on 5 ounces of nuts each week might cut your risk of heart disease in half?
Red wine: A gift of red wine is a great way to toast your beloved and can be healthy, too. In fact, a medical study conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada states that the health benefits of resveratrol — a natural compound found in red wine — are identical to those individuals gain from exercising. Show someone you care by sending a special Valentine’s gift from ONEHOPE Wine. Options include the All You Need is Love Gift Box — with a bottle of Edna Valley Reserve Pinot Noir in a red glitter bottle, toffee, and an orange-scented candle ($109) — or a single bottle of Pinot in a signature ($23.99) or elegant red glitter bottle ($69). Best of all? Proceeds from each gift help educate 10 people on their risk of heart disease. Be sure to mention the promo code “Heart” to receive 20 percent off your purchase.
Relaxation: Find a beautiful basket and fill it to the brim with candles, incense, soaps, lotions and potions, and maybe even a gift certificate for a reflexology session or a soothing massage at your sweetheart’s favorite spa. Better yet … make it a couple’s massage.
Romantic candlelit dinner at home: Start your Valentine’s meal with a colorful mixed salad that includes heart-healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil vinaigrette. Next, plan a delicious seafood entrée. Fish — especially salmon — has much less saturated fat than red meat. It’s also one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Workout gear: According to the AHA, the best way to improve overall cardiovascular health is to exercise moderately for 150 minutes per week or vigorously for 75 minutes per week (or a combo of both). Make sure your loved one keeps up with their goals with fun equipment like a pedometer, which counts each step a person takes. And, of course, you should pair that gift with some cute outfits as well.