· By Vicky Esterhammer
Heart Healthy This Valentine's Day
Whether you're spending Valentine's day with bae, planning virtual Valentine's festivities with your besties or preparing to celebrate your single-dom, this time of year should be all about love! Over time, however, this annual holiday has become less about kind words, flowers and warm sentiment. Instead, it is now synonymous with chocolates, candy, and sweet treats, all brimming with sugar, loaded with food dyes and generally lacking in nutritional value, most notably fibre.
For a season full of hearts, this hardly seems like the kind of love we should be showing to our own! It's high time we take a look at the vital role fibre has to play in overall heart health and the benefits it can provide to the cardiovascular system.
1. Lowering LDL Cholesterol & Reducing Risk of Heart Disease
Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, are often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol because high levels can create a buildup that collects in the blood vessels. This makes it difficult for the heart to function correctly and increases the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.
Prebiotic fibres, which are soluble, soak up water and become gel-like in the stomach and intestines, thereby blocking the absorption of cholesterol by binding and removing them from the body, keeping arteries clear and functioning properly.
2. Regulate Body Weight by Supporting Microbiome
Weight management is key to maintaining a healthy heart as obesity places undue stress on the cardiovascular system that can lead to serious complications.
One of the key-functions fibre plays is the support it offers the body's microbiome. Unlike other foods, fibres are indigestible and therefore travel beyond the stomach and small intestine (where other foods are digested), reaching the large intestine, which is the home of your "gut flora," comprised of nearly 100 trillion bacteria cells, which outnumber our human cells! Fibres essentially feed the gut (probiotic) bacteria and other microbes in the intestinal tract, along with helping the body properly metabolize both carbohydrates and fats.
High-fibre diets also create the feeling of being full both during and in between meals. This suppression of appetite and reduced cravings makes it easier to balance food intake without feeling hungry.
3. Balances Blood Sugar
Operating as the body's glucose reservoir, the liver plays an integral part in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Fibre can signal the liver to slow the production of sugar and the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Balancing blood sugar levels eliminates stress on both the heart and the metabolism process.
4. Reduces Insulin Resistance
Insulin, which functions to regulate the level of sugar in the blood, is a hormone that the body's cells respond to. How responsive these cells are can vary and significantly impact heart health.
Fibre improves insulin responsiveness by slowing the body's breakdown of fat stores. It does so by producing short-chain fatty acids during the fermentation process in the intestinal tract. It also delays gastric emptying, which can regulate the rise and fall of blood sugar levels in between meals.
While the half-price chocolate may be tempting in the days following February 14th, we encourage you to reach for fibre-rich dietary staples that will leave you truly heart happy!