6 Tips to Be Heart-Healthy This Valentine’s Day

6 Tips to Be Heart-Healthy This Valentine’s Day

heartValentine’s Day is a day to treat our loved ones (and ourselves), but somehow the treat of choice has become candy. While the media (and chocolate-makers) would have you believe that a piece or two of chocolate is good for you, trust me: the chocolate that comes in the box with the big red bow is simply dressed-up sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. And here are the top three (of more than a 100) harmful effects of sugar, according to recent food science studies:

  • It suppresses the immune system and causes inflammation — particularly harmful to those recovering from a cold, flu, bronchitis, and cancer.
  • It causes weight gain; especially harmful is increased fat around our heart and organs. Sugar is a main culprit in the growing epidemic of obesity and adult-onset diabetes in the U.S.
  • It is addictive. Sugar and chocolate release the same brain chemicals that addicts crave (dopamine, serotonin and endorphins). So while you think having one or two pieces of heart-shaped chocolates won’t be too bad, your brain is thinking “give me more, more, more!” That’s why so many of us find it hard to resist sweet temptations – it’s not all our fault, it’s neuro-chemistry!

This year, if you really want to show your love (to your sweetheart AND yourself) forgo the bonbons and consider these non-food ways to indulge:

The American Heart Association (the authority!) votes for a gift from the heart, such as a poem or love letter. Choose one of your favorites and hand-write it on beautiful paper, or create a poem, letter or love story of your own. Need some inspiration? Visit Favorite Love Poems. In between relationships? Write yourself a loving, “non-negotiable” list – all the things you will never put up with in a relationship ever again. Get inspiration from my friend Ginger Emas’ book, Back on Top.

Go old school with a “mixed-tape” of your favorite songs – romantic, funny, dance-able, sensual. Make a play list and download it to your sweetie’s iPod, phone or tablet, or wrap it up on a flashdrive. If you are too young to remember the 80s check out The Lost Art of the Mix Tape. And everyone knows that dancing alone is sexy! Make a mix-tape for yourself to listen to on your walks or during your workouts, or to dance around to in your living room!

Do something different (together or by yourself!) Always wanted to take up scuba-diving or Italian cooking? A comedy class or glass-blowing? My hubby and I took swing lessons last winter and it was a blast (not to mention it burned a few calories and created some new brain paths – good for memory retention!) Check out nationwide dance studios — partner optional!

Frame a favorite moment. The one downside to all of our digital devices is we rarely take time to print and frame our photos anymore. Choose a picture from your gallery files and print it on an oversized canvas for a modern, museum-y look. Then hang it in your home (or his) and wait for the surprise revealed! Look for February sales at www.canvasondemand.com or your local drugstore.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for a Girl’s Night Out or a house party for friends. Make a fire, serve the heart-healthy treats below with sparkling water and raspberries, and play a game of Catch Phrase. Check out the Top 10 Board Games for Adults for more ideas.

The above suggestions are “non-food nourishment” – and it’s important to find ways to treat yourself on a daily basis! As a health coach, I always encourage my clients to find food-free ways to take care of themselves, instead of reaching for something sweet, salty or gooey. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge in non-food fun!

Loving Thyself – It’s Not If It’s When

I’ve found that in recent years, many people are delaying their health and fitness goals until February — they’re just not quite ready when New Year’s rolls around. If that sounds like you, I’ve got good news! Holistic health looks at the “whole” person, including how you’ll know when you’re ready to get started on your weight or health goals. The key to holistic health coaching is one-on-one support and guidance, based on your past, present and future. With a coach, you’ll be able to understand your challenges better, learn what triggers your food cravings, and recognize what’s stopping you from putting yourself first!

The “whole” in holistic also refers to “whole” foods — natural, minimally-processed foods and recipes that taste good, satisfy you, and bring you pleasure. (Yes, your brain can learn to get pleasure (release dopamine) from healthy foods, too!) With a health coach, you’ll soon be in control of your food instead of your food being in control of you. Give it a try with my free half-hour one-on-one consultation, where we’ll talk all about you and your challenges and goals! Contact me today!

Wishing you love and peace on Valentine’s Day and always!

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sweet sesame treats

If it’s just not heart day for you without a treat, try these Do-It-Yourself Sweet Sesame Treats
(Adapted from the recipe for “Carob Halavah” from the Raw Energy 124 Cookbook, by Stephanie Tourles)

1 cup raw sesame seeds
1 TBS cacao powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
¼ cup raw honey
2 TBS raw tahini (found in the ethnic food aisle at your grocer’s; stir before using)
1 tsp natural vanilla extract

1. Put the sesame seeds in a food processor and blend until medium-coarse, 60-90 seconds. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the cacao, cinnamon and salt; blend well with a large spoon.
3. Drizzle the honey, tahini and vanilla over the dry mix.
4. Using your hands, mix and knead the ingredients until it is a blended, granular, stiff dough.
5. Take about a tablespoon’s worth of dough and form it into a one-inch ball. Repeat with the remaining dough.
6. Makes about 22 balls; store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for three weeks, or in the freezer for up to six months.

These treats are best eaten cold, so I always place them in the refrigerator before I serve them. I also eat them right out of the freezer! This treat is a good source of vitamins B and E; calcium; iron; potassium; protein; healthy fat; fiber; copper,

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