So many times we hear about the foods that are bad for us, but we want to offer some up some homegrown goodness we all should splurge on seconds. We spoke with a registered dietitian at the Avera Heart Hospital who wants to plant a seed on what we should plant in our gardens this summer that will harvest the most benefits for our hearts.
Avera Heart Hospital Registered Dietitian Nikki Ver Steeg probably peruses plants at Landscape Garden Center in Sioux Falls with a different eye than most of us. When I see homegrown tomatoes, I think nothing compares to their sweet hearty deliciousness. She thinks, wow, what a great flavanol rich food option to help your cardiovascular health.
Nikki says, "Flavanols are antioxidant compounds that help to lower your blood pressure, they reduce inflammation. They also make it less sticky in the blood vessels so that cholesterol, once it's damaged, doesn't stick as easily."
Now is as good a time as any to start your heart healthy garden. I asked the growing experts at Landscape Garden and she says people often start their garden too early. To get the most benefits though Nikki Ver Steeg says plant bright colored fruits and vegetables like beets, red onions, peppers, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. The fruits come in the form of a bush that will come back every year. As will grape plants, but go for the bright colored ones which are stock full of vital flavanols.
Nikki says, "Go for a variety of colors and textures because that means it's also less processed.A lot of times that takes away the stuff we need. Plus, when you grow your own food you are in control of what chemicals you put in it."
I asked Nikki if she could only plant one thing rich with antioxidants what would she plant? She said lettuce because we eat a lot of it. And if you don't have room for a big garden in the backyard you can plant it in flower pots and put it on the deck. Another tip, plant your spinach and lettuce a few days to a week apart that way your harvest will stretch out longer instead of so much at once.. less waste, extended produce.
Nikki says, "Lettuce is also something that ranks high on the "dirty dozen" list for more contaminants. If you can raise that yourself and have the reduction in contaminants that's a huge benefit."
Herbs are also good for relaxing the blood vessels particularly parsley, oregano, basil and cilantro. It's also something you can grow year round in a planter indoors.
Natures own goodness that's naturally good for you just as it is.
Straight from the Avera Heart Hospital Kitchen: heart healthy recipes for grilling. Check them out!