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                            Food Matters
                            All about fresh, flavorful food


                            Mangoes: The Summer Superfood

                            Mangoes are the summer superfood. Mangoes have a sumptuous tropical flavor. It’s not just the juicy flavor that makes mangoes special, in addition mangoes deliver nutritional value and make healthy eating a delightful sensory experience.

                            The sweet aromas of mangoes remind me of the stains left behind on my clothes as well as candor as a child. I was born and brought up in India and mangoes are one of the favorite summer fruit in India. The species name of the mango itself is Mangifera indica, which means “an Indian plant bearing mangoes.”

                            Here I am sharing some amazing recipes with mangoes, their nutrition and health benefits, and some Ayurveda facts. 

                            Mango Nutrition

                            • A mango serving size is equivalent to 3/4 cup of sliced mangoes and is just 70 calories, so it’s a satisfyingly sweet treat.
                            • The above-mentioned serving size is Sodium free, cholesterol free and fat free.
                            • Presence of 20 different vitamins and minerals makes it a super food
                            • One serving (3/4 cup) of mango contains 7% of your daily fiber.
                            • Also, mangoes are good sources of folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin B6

                            Ayurveda Properties of Mangoes

                            This sweet, delicious and juicy fruit is known as King of Fruits – especially in India. It possesses sweet taste and has nourishing quality. It is also a good energizer and is beneficial for improving the immunity. They are thirst quenchers and is heavy to digest. Consuming mangoes are good for skin health and they can pacify Vata dosha in the body. Mangoes support all the seven dhatus (body tissues) and provide a very satisfying snack or dessert.

                            Mangoes are in season from January through August, peaking in June.

                            Mangoes

                            Mango Chutney Recipe

                            Ingredients:

                            • 1 well ripe mango, sliced
                            • 1-inch piece of ginger
                            • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
                            • 2 pinches cinnamon
                            • 1/8 teaspoon salt
                            • 2 teaspoons sugar
                            • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
                            • Curry leaves

                            Method of Preparation

                            In a Blender, blend ingredients except mustard seeds and curry leaves until smooth. In a pan add ½ tsp. of coconut oil and splutter mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the prepared mango and spice mix to the pan. Gently heat the chutney, do not boil. Serve warm with rice or bread.

                            Mango Lassi Recipe

                            Though yogurt is heavy for digestion, thinning yogurt with water and blending it changes the molecular structure, so it is more easily assimilated. Drink it before or with lunch.

                            Ingredients:

                            • 1/2 cup organic fresh yoghurt
                            • 1 Mango
                            • 1.5 cups water
                            • Himalayan Pink Salt – a pinch
                            • Cardamom pods – 2

                            Method of Preparation

                            Peel the mango and cut the flesh into a blender. Add enough water to cover the mango and purée until smooth.

                            Add yogurt and the rest of the water and blend until smooth.

                            Tropical Summer Salad Recipe

                            Ingredients:

                            • 1 romaine lettuce
                            • 1 mango
                            • 1 avocado
                            • 3 tablespoons olive oil
                            • Juice of 1/2 lime
                            • Salt and pepper

                            Method of Preparation

                            Wash and cut lettuce into small pieces. Cube mango and avocado and mix with lettuce.

                            Mix olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and toss it gently.

                            Health Benefits of Mangoes

                            Mango has been an important herb in the Ayurvedic and indigenous medical systems for over 4000 years. Mangoes belong to genus Mangifera which consists of about 30 species of tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. According to Ayurveda, varied medicinal properties are attributed to different parts of the mango tree. Mango possesses antidiabetic, antioxidant, anti-viral, cardiotonic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory properties. 

                            Ripe mango fruit is considered to be invigorating and freshening. The juice is restorative tonic and used in heatstroke. The seeds are used in asthma and as an astringent. Fumes from the burning leaves are inhaled for relief from hiccups and affections of the throat. The bark is astringent, it is used in diphtheria and rheumatism, and it is believed to possess a tonic action on the mucus membrane. The gum is used in dressings for cracked feet and for scabies. It is also considered anti-syphilitic. The kernels are converted into flour after soaking in water and eliminating the astringent principles. Most parts of the tree are used medicinally, and the bark also contains tannins, which are used for the purpose of dyeing.1

                            Image Courtesy - Archana Krishna


                            References

                            1. Shah, K. A., Patel, M. B., Patel, R. J., & Parmar, P. K. (2010). Mangifera indica (mango). Pharmacognosy reviews4(7), 42–48. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.65325

                            Easy Homemade Kimchi Recipe

                            I’m always looking for new ways to make simple fermented foods. I’ve made yogurt, apple cider vinegar, shrub syrup, pickled beets and many other things. I like to make things that don’t take a lot of equipment and don’t take a long time to ferment. I have a busy life and I don't have  a lot of disposable income. Apple cider vinegar takes the longest to finish. It was weeks in the process. Fortunately, I could make a lot and don’t use it up terribly fast. Also, it keeps a long time in the fridge.

                            I’ve always wanted to try kimchi and got a nice Napa cabbage from my neighbors so I decided to give it a try. I had seen a recipe from a garden place near Santa Cruz that claimed the recipe was not overly spicy so I thought I’d give it a try. I have made other things following their recipes and have noticed that they, while surely good-intentioned, always leave something important out of the instructions. I wondered what it would be this time.

                            I found what it was. It didn’t have enough brine when I followed the recipe to the letter and also the taste was extremely bland. They offered no remedy so I doctored it. I have to say, without bragging, that it turned out pretty well and tasty. OK, I’m bragging a little.

                            If you didn’t know already kimchi is a lightly fermented Korean sauerkraut. My favorite way to use kimchi is plop a big tablespoon on top of rice with sauteed greens and sliced avocado topped with a easy over fried egg. You can also use it as a condiment in a sandwich like ham and cheese. I also eat it straight out of the jar (using a clean spoon preserves the good bacteria!)

                            Try it. You’ll like it! 

                            finished

                            Easy Homemade Kimchi Recipe

                            Yield: Makes about a pint to a quart depending on the size of your cabbage

                            Prep time: 30 minutes to 45 minutes

                            Ingredients:

                            • 1 medium head Napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)
                            • 1/4 cup sea salt or kosher salt (check the label. Make sure there’s NO iodine or other additives)
                            • Water, preferably distilled, filtered, or well (don’t use tap water with chlorine or other additives)
                            • 1 tablespoon grated garlic - 5 to 6 cloves (I actually used powdered garlic and it worked fine)
                            • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
                            • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
                            • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
                            • 1 to 5 tablespoons of Korean red pepper paste (I use gochuchang because I always have it for other things like BiBimBap)

                            Equipment

                            • Cutting board and knife
                            • Large bowl
                            • Gloves (optional but recommended)
                            • Something to weigh the kimchi down. (I used a juice glass)
                            • Colander
                            • Sterilized jar (1 quart or 1 pint as needed) with canning lid
                            • Bowl or plate to place under jar during fermentation

                            Instructions

                            Cut the cabbage lengthwise through the stem into quarters. Cut the cores from each piece. Chop each quarter into fine strips or chunks.

                            Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Using your clean hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit. Add enough good water to cover the cabbage and then put a clean plate on top of the cabbage. Weigh it down with something clean like a glass filled with water. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.

                            Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the spice paste.

                            Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce, and stir into a smooth paste. Stir in the gochuchang. Less is less spicy. More is, well, more spicy! Set aside until the cabbage is ready.

                            Combine the cabbage and spice paste. Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and add it to the spice paste.

                            weighted

                            Pack the kimchi into a jar that accommodates the cabbage with a clean stainless steel spoon. Press down on the kimchi until any liquid to cover the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top. If there's too much take some cabbage out and if you need to you can add a little boiled water that has cooled down to room temperature. Put the weight on it. I put a piece of plastic wrap down in the jar on top of the kimchi and then I press a glass that just fits into the opening of the kimchi jar so the veggies stay beneath the liquid. If I need to I’ll add water to the glass to make it heavier but usually the kimchi compacts all right. We’re looking to keep as much air out of it. Air has the wrong kind of microbes to make the kimchi work.

                            Place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. When it starts fermenting it may bubble over. Let the jar stand at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for at least 5 days. I put mine in the pantry and close the door. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out. That’s why we place it on something to catch that.

                            Keep an eye on it but don’t disturb it unless you see mold starting. If you see mold, of course, throw it away. But if you don’t, after 5 days you can then refrigerate it. You may eat it right away, but it's best after another week or.

                            Kimchi can stay refrigerated for up to a few months. Use clean utensils each time to extract the kimchi from the jar.

                            Immune-Boosting Juice Recipe

                            In the present scenario, the word immunity has gained importance. In this article, I am trying to explain the concept of immunity according to Ayurveda principles. Ayurveda is a popular, and one of the oldest, traditional systems of medicine (TSMs) accepted worldwide.  We now have a magnificent opportunity to relearn our connection with foods, I am sharing a recipe for immune-boosting juice which can be included in the diet daily.

                            Remember that our feelings, mindfulness, and awareness about food can change our health status.

                            Immunity is considered as 'Vyadhi Kshamatva' in Ayurveda. Vyadhi is the Sanskrit word for disease and Kshamatva is the Sanskrit word for resistance. In Ayurveda, immunity is referred to as prevention of disease, as well as quick recovery from a disease.

                            So, how is one able to improve immunity as per Ayurveda principles?

                            By the concept of Tripods (Pillars) of Life, Ayurveda considers Ahara (food), Nidra (sleep), and Brahmacharya (celibacy) as the tripods, or three pillars, that support life. It is important for our body to be adjusted to a timely intake of high-quality and proper food, regular sleeping habits, and controlled indulgence in sex because as all this ensures long and healthy life. Let us look at each of these factors in detail.

                            1. Diet: It is essential to know what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and how to eat. Ayurveda isn't focused on caloric intake, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats/lipids. It is focused on seasonal eating and eating per your constitution, which also considers metabolism.
                            2. Sleep: Sleep is essential and getting to bed around 10 pm (no later than 11) will provide a great balance to the body. The later someone stays up, the more the natural rhythms of the body are thrown off and the more this affects tomorrow by disrupting metabolism, increasing hormonal issues, cravings, and even affecting the next night's rest. Also, Ayurveda doesn't recommend sleep during daytime as it increases the Kapha in the body.
                            3. Celibacy: Total abstinence from sexual activity may not be possible for ordinary people, but a restrained sexual life, keeping in mind the higher goal of eternal happiness and life goals, is certainly possible.

                            Following the concept of Dinacharya (daily regimen), Ritucharya (seasonal regimen), and sadvritta (code of conduct).

                            beetroot juice in two glasses with fruit in background

                            Immune-Boosting Juice Recipe

                            The immune enhancing nutrients in each of these ingredients can helps with a natural boost to your body’s defense mechanisms.

                            Ingredients:

                            • 1 green apple (Granny Smith), cubed
                            • 1 beetroot, cubed
                            • 1/2 tbsp. chopped ginger
                            • 2 carrots, cubed
                            • 4 stalks celery, chopped
                            • Salt to taste
                            • 1/2 tsp. crushed pepper

                            Method of Preparation

                            Blend all the ingredients together and serve fresh. You can always add a cup of coconut water or nut milk if you feel the juice is way too thicker in consistency.

                            Benefits of Ingredients

                            Carrots and apples are a winning combination for helping your body protect itself and fight off infections. They have the notable ingredients like Vitamins A, B-6, potassium and folic acid. Inflammation is usually the body’s response to infection. Beetroot which is a root vegetable helps reducing the inflammation and infections. Ginger has tremendous anti-inflammatory effects in the body. The whole collection of ingredients together makes a potent immune boosting juice.

                            Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

                            Grapefruit Ginger Shrub Recipe

                            I love apple cider vinegar so much I’ve even fermented my own. It’s a very healthy food to include in your diet for its probiotic properties but sometimes I run out of recipes to use it in. First and foremost, I include it in my vinegar and oil salad dressings and other times I dilute it in a glass of water and drink it with a little locally produced honey. However, I thought it would be nice to have a new and unexpected way to include it in my diet. So, I did a little research and found an old-fashioned drink. It’s called a “shrub”. The name makes no sense whatsoever. Anyway, I thought I would try it and it turns out that it’s pretty tasty.

                            The research told me that a shrub is the name of different, but related, acidulated beverages. Acidulated means slightly acidic. One type of shrub is a fruit liqueur that was popular in 17th and 18th century England and was typically made with rum or brandy. The other shrub is mixed with sugar and the juice or rinds of citrus fruit. It's a sweetened vinegar-based syrup from which the drink is made. The syrup is also known as drinking vinegar. This is the shrub I decided to try.

                            I found that in days gone by people used vinegar as an alternative to difficult-to-find citrus juices when they were trying to preserve berries and other fruits. Fruit preserves made in this way were themselves known as shrubs. By the 19th century, typical American shrub recipes used vinegar poured over fruit which was left to infuse at least overnight sometimes longer. Then the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink.

                            My neighbors have a grapefruit tree and we were gifted with a few pounds of the fruit. I decided to use those grapefruit as my citrus because one can eat only so much salad dressing or grapefruit halves! The neat thing about the shrub mixture is that it can live in the fridge for 2 or 3 months. We’re going to enjoy this in the coming hot weather. I had some fresh ginger so I added that for a little kick.

                            shrub article

                            Grapefruit Ginger Shrub Recipe

                            Ingredients

                            • 2 large grapefruits, any kind, plus slices for serving
                            • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
                            • One 4 in. piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
                            • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
                            • Chilled seltzer, for serving

                            Instructions

                            Grate the zest from grapefruits to equal 2-1/2 tablespoons. Place in a large bowl. Then cut away the peel and pith of 2 grapefruits and discard. Chop the remaining flesh into 1-inch pieces. You should have about 2 cups.

                            Add sugar to the zest in bowl and rub it with your fingertips to release the oils. Stir in the chopped grapefruit and sliced ginger. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, overnight.

                            The next day stir the vinegar into the grapefruit mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days. After 2 days strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a lidded jar. You can store shrub syrup in refrigerator for up to 3 months.

                            When you're ready to have some pour 3 tablespoons of the shrub syrup into an ice-filled glass. Then top with seltzer and garnish with a grapefruit slice.

                            Meatless Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

                            This second try at making a plant-based meal for my meat-and-potatoes-atarian husband wasn't a success for him. Fortunately, they were still delicious to me so I ate them. The problem was they didn't hold together even though I added eggs. Most of them fell apart when I put them in the hot sauce. Some of them did. Some of them didn't. I thought the lentils made the sauce rich and sumptuous but my husband thought the texture was awful. So it wasn't that there were vegetables in it that he objected to. It was the texture he did not like.

                            I've found that my food processor is my best friend and confidante. It shreds the vegetables into such tiny bits that they are invisible when cooked and added to the recipe. When my husband asks, “What’s in those meatballs?” I can honestly say mostly beans and rice which are foods that he will eat. I like this recipe because, once browned in olive oil, the color is really very much like a true Meatball. The sauce completes the deception. If you make from-scratch spaghetti from semolina flour it’s a real taste treat.

                            spaghetti

                            Meatless Spaghetti and Meatballs

                            Ingredients:

                            • 1-1/2 cups green lentils (dry)
                            • 2 tablespoons olive oil
                            • 1/2 yellow onion, shredded
                            • 2 cloves of garlic, shredded
                            • 1 carrot, shredded
                            • 3 cups stock (veg, chicken or beef)
                            • 1 cup cooked rice
                            • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped fine
                            • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
                            • 1-1/4 cups panko bread crumbs, plus 1 cup for rolling balls
                            • 1 to 2 eggs
                            • 2 t. Oregano
                            • 1/4 c Parmesan or Romano cheese
                            • 2 t. Parsley
                            • Salt and pepper to taste

                            Directions:

                            Shred the onions and carrots in your food processor. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a small stockpot and add diced onion, garlic, walnuts and carrots and saute over medium-low heat. Low and slow makes the veggies soft and sweet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes or until everything is translucent.

                            Once the veggies are soft add the lentils and liquid and stir, then cover, and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook just until the lentils begin to soften. Check them after 15 minutes. Try a spoonful. If they are soft they’re done. If you need to cook them longer add a little more stock. A little bit at a time. You’re looking for the lentils to absorb the liquid but you don't want them to be mushy. Let them cool a bit.

                            Put 2 cups of the cooked lentil concoction in the food processor. Add 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 or 2 eggs, a big dollop of tomato paste and 1-1/4 c panko. Pulse until combined. Taste for seasonings. At this time if you want you can add 2 teaspoons of oregano, parsley or 1/4 cup of parmesan or romano cheese. I didn’t add cheese to mine and they taste very good without it.

                            Make balls with the mixture, then roll each one in the breadcrumbs.

                            meatballs
                            Don't these look like meatballs made with meat?

                            Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the balls and cook on all sides until brown and crispy.

                            Serve with your favorite marinara sauce over spaghetti or any type of pasta you prefer.

                             

                            A Plant-Based Chili for Everyone

                            I have always been a veggie lover so when certain people started touting the plant-based way of eating I was already on board. By the way, to my way of thinking plant-based is a kinder, gentler way of saying “vegan”. For some odd reason “vegan” has become somewhat of a pejorative term. I’m not sure why but “vegan” is associated with militant, in-your-face, meat-shaming folks who might belong to PETA. And I don’t mean the bumper sticker that says People Eating Tasty Animals.

                            I think plant-based is a more accurate term. People have all sorts of ideas about what veganism means and plant-based describes that way of eating better. So, when we recently found ourselves watching the documentary “The Game Changers,” I took that as a jumping off point to try to persuade my meat and potatoes husband to eat less meat and more vegetables. Would he try this at least one day a week I asked? Yes, he said. I like beans. And he does. So off we go. We’re calling it Meatless Monday.

                            Over the next few weeks I am going to embark on a discovery of meatless meals that a vegetable-eschewing, meat-loving person might like to eat. Yes, I forgot to add that not only does he love meat but he also does not like vegetables. Really; for truly, the only vegetable he will eat besides iceberg lettuce is the potato. Will this be a Mission Impossible? No sirree Bob! I’m stubborn and do not give up easily.

                            My first recipe is a no-brainer. I’m going to make a Meatless Bean Chili with a ton of vegetables. I’ve figured out how to make it so he won’t go in like he always does and pick out the vegetables. Yes! He does that!

                            Vegetarian Chili

                            Meatless Bean Chili Recipe

                            This can be made with or without animal proteins including dairy depending on your choices

                            Ingredients:

                            • 12 oz dry beans OR 12 oz total combination of pinto, garbanzo, kidney beans, etc. Pretty much any single variety of bean or beans you like or would like to try. I use dry beans because there’s less packaging.
                            • 3 carrots, peeled
                            • 2 stalks celery
                            • 1/2 onion, can be red, white, yellow, sweet
                            • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
                            • Vegetable broth
                            • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
                            • 1-2 tbsp tomato paste
                            • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
                            • 2 tsp cumin
                            • 2 tsp oregano
                            • 2 tsp smoked paprika
                            • 2 tsp cocoa powder
                            • 2 tbsp chili powder
                            • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
                            • Salt and pepper to taste

                            1. Soak the beans in a crock pot over night. Pour off the water. Set aside.

                            2. Start off by shredding the following in a food processor. (I shred the veggies so when I sauté them slowly so they will soften. Then when I add them to the beans they will be almost invisible when completely cooked. This is to fool the vegetable hater in the family so they don’t know that they’re eating veggies):

                            3. Sauté the veggies slowly in a large pot with a little olive oil. Don’t let them burn but you can let them caramelize. Add the veggies to the crock pot beans. If there’s any nice brown leavings in the bottom of the pot scrape that out and put it in with the beans.

                            4. Pour in enough vegetable broth to cover the beans. Add 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste and half a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes. (Muir Glen does not have the BPA lined can) You can use fresh tomatoes, too.

                            5. Add cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste, cocoa powder, mild chili powder, and hot pepper flakes if you want more heat. All the seasonings can be adjusted up or downwards depending on your preference.

                            6. Turn the crock pot on high and cook until the beans are tender about 6-8 hours.

                            7. Garnish with cheese, avocado, corn chips, chopped green onion or dollops of sour cream.

                            I’m writing this on a Sunday. Tomorrow is Meatless Monday. Then, I’m going to make Veggie Meatballs in a Fresh Tomato Sauce with Homemade Pasta.

                             

                            These 12 Foods Enhance Your Heart Health

                            You can't live without your heart, so it only makes sense to take care of this vital organ. You probably know you should avoid eating too many deep-fried foods or living on a diet of steak. What can you eat to benefit your heart health? 

                            Your body needs certain nutrients to keep your ticker pumping away. Choosing the right combinations of foods can nourish your heart and keep you feeling your best. Many of these have additional benefits, too — so you have the perfect reason to grab your fork. 

                            photography-of-garlic-on-wooden-table-630766

                            1. Fatty Fish 

                            Did you know that the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week? Fish such as salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical to heart health. Heart disease rates are typically lower in Asian nations, where fish is a significant dietary staple. 

                            Exercise caution if you're pregnant, though. Some varieties of fish, like mackerel, contain high levels of mercury that could harm your developing fetus. Stick to choices like canned tuna and catfish. 

                            2. Dark, Leafy Greens

                            You might have heard that you should eat more kale — but do you know why? Dark, leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses. They're chock-full of vitamins and nutrients, including those that benefit your heart. 

                            Don't think you have to resign yourself to eating salads every day. You can prepare greens like romaine on the grill by brushing them with oil and adding your favorite seasonings. They heat quickly, so toss them on as your main dish finishes cooking — or make them into a speedy meal by themselves. 

                            3. Onions

                            Flavonoids are fabulous chemicals found in food. They contribute to the vibrant hues in particular items, like berries. You can also find high levels in onions. 

                            Flavonoids act as antioxidants by preventing the oxidation of LDL, or bad cholesterol. Researchers believe that this process forms the first stage in plaque production. When plaque builds up in your arteries, it can lead to a heart attack. 

                            4. Nuts 

                            You might think, "Aren't nuts high in fat and salt? How could they benefit my heart?" However, while nuts do contain fat, it's the heart-healthy variety that lowers your cholesterol. Plus, if you purchase them at health food stores, you can find them without added sodium. 

                            The vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids in nuts improve the lining of your arteries, keeping them from hardening. This flexibility can prevent heart failure from the organ pumping too hard to increase circulation. 

                            5. Cucumber 

                            Did you know that many Americans consume hefty amounts of sodium each day, mainly due to additives in processed foods? Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure and damage to your blood vessels. Cucumbers, conversely, contain high levels of potassium, an electrolyte that helps counter the effects of salt. It helps your kidneys excrete excess sodium, thus lowering your blood pressure. If you don't enjoy the flavor of raw cucumber, put a few slices in your water bottle for flavor. 

                            6. Garlic 

                            You might have heard that garlic keeps vampires at bay, but the myth may have originated in this herb's beneficial effects on your blood. Investigators believe your red blood cells turn garlic's sulfur into hydrogen sulfide gas. This expands your blood vessels, making blood pressure regulation easier. You can eat a full clove per day for maximum effect — just don't consume it before a hot date night.

                            7. Tomatoes 

                            What pairs perfectly with garlic? Tomatoes, of course. Go ahead and have a slice of pizza. The combination can benefit your health, especially if you skip processed toppings like pepperoni and ham. Plants in the allium family, like garlic and onions, also increase the bioavailability of lycopene in these fruits. Lycopene helps your vision, so if you have trouble seeing at night, go out for Italian. 

                            8. Olive Oil 

                            Even though olive oil is 100% fat, it's also the heart-healthy kind. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which lowers total cholesterol, as well as LDL levels. Drizzle it on salads, or brush it on a pizza crust. 

                            9. Avocados

                            You have another reason to love avocado toast: The vitamin E in this green fruit helps to keep your veins and arteries pliable. Don't let the haters keep you from this breakfast staple — you're eating it for your health.

                            10. Berries 

                            Berries are high in anthocyanins, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects. In addition to fighting disease-causing free radicals, anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits. They may also prevent high blood pressure. 

                            11. Wine 

                            If you don't drink already, you can get the heart-healthy benefits of wine by imbibing grape juice or eating the fruit. However, if you enjoy a glass of merlot with your evening meal, you could boost your health. In excess, alcohol can increase your blood pressure, but in moderation, it has a beneficial effect. Strive for no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. 

                            12. Tea 

                            Tea contains catechins, a type of antioxidant. These compounds can repair damage from oxidative stress due to exposure to smoke or other environmental toxins. Some research suggests that tea may also help you control your blood sugar levels. When your glucose levels spiral out of control, you could develop Type 2 diabetes. That condition increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

                            If you want to enhance your heart health, start by improving your diet. Your recipe for a fully functioning ticker could be right in your kitchen.







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