Heart Health for Athletes

5 Nutrients to Support heart Health and Performance 

By Emma Andrews, RHN

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a ‘sweat daily’ enthusiast, your cardiovascular system (heart, blood vessels and veins) play a crucial role in your performance. If you want to improve your stamina, and you plan to be active your whole life, you may need to pay closer attention to certain key nutrients.

Keep your heart pumping strong with these top 5 nutrients to support cardiovascular health.

  1. Vitamin C 

We neither have the ability to make Vitamin C, or store extra in our body. This makes it very important for us to get if from our diet every single day.

Vitamin C has a wide variety of roles in our health, but it’s most famously known for being an antioxidant that helps to neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals – reactive molecules that have the ability to harm our cells, tissues and DNA.

Overtime free radical damage may accelerate aging, and lead to the development of heart disease, as well as other chronic diseases. Vitamin C has also been shown to help relax blood vessels, which helps to keep blood pressure healthy – a win for your heart.

Find it in: PureFood C, citrus fruits, parsley, peppers, pineapple, papaya, cauliflower, broccoli, amla berries, moringa leaves, camu camu fruit.

Try this: Add PureFood C powder to hummus (like this beet hummus recipe), along with finely chopped parsley, and serve with raw cauliflower, broccoli, and bell pepper crudité. Or get blending with the Heart of Gold Smoothie which features pineapple and turmeric!

 

  1. Electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that help to maintain fluid balance, blood pH, heart, nerve and muscle function. Low levels of fluid intake lead to low blood volume. When your blood volume drops, your body compromises circulation and has poor nutrient exchange, hormone balance and toxin removal.

Find it in: Fresh fruits and vegetables – especially bananas, potatoes and leafy greens, fresh pressed juices, nuts and seeds – especially sesame and chia seeds, sea vegetables, seaweed, and coconut water.

Try this: Use coconut water as the liquid base in your post workout smoothie, and add a handful of fresh leafy greens, a frozen banana, and a tbsp of chia seeds. For main meals, add roasted fingerling or baby potatoes and shredded nori seaweed to a hearty salad.

 

  1. Iron 

Iron plays a crucial role in helping transport vital oxygen from our lungs to our tissues, via our blood (red blood cells specifically). When we don’t have enough red blood cells, our heart must pump harder and faster to compensate for a lack of oxygen.

Iron-deficient anemia is the number one nutritional deficiency in the world. Determined by a simple blood test, it’s a condition associated with having a low red blood cell count. Especially relevant for women of reproductive age, those who follow a plant-based diet, and endurance athletes. If you are in one of these groups, it is advised to consume a wide variety of iron rich foods to help compensate for your increase demands.

Find it in: Purefood Iron, raw cacao, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, lentils, spinach, peas, potatoes, oatmeal, beets and beet greens, collard greens, swiss chard, curry leaves, amla berries, moringa leaves.

Try this: Add PureFood Iron to your oatmeal, along with sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. For a main meal, make burritos with seasoned lentils and chopped spinach.

 

  1. B Vitamins

Also, known as your “B-Complex” vitamins, they’re considered to be cardio-protective and are shown to help regulate homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a type of amino acid, and high levels of which are identified as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Find it in: PureFood B, whole grains, avocado, beans and legumes, nutritional yeast, guava, lemon, holy basil, spirulina.

Try this: Make a hearty whole grain salad with cooked and chilled grains (such as barley, wild rice, or quinoa), black beans, chopped veggies, fresh herbs and diced avocado. Toss it with an oil and vinegar based dressing and whisk in nutritional yeast (to make it creamy), and PureFood B powder (one scoop per person/serving).

 

  1. Probiotics

Probiotics have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits, support the development of immune cells, create acids that reduce cholesterol production, and support the liver in producing bile acids that digest fat.

For athletes, adding probiotic rich foods into your diet can help reduce post workout inflammation, speeding recovery times. As well, probiotics support your immune health and resilience to colds and flus that we’re especially prone to catching when frequently sharing gym equipment, and pushing our limits during peak volume weeks in our training plans.

Find it in: Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, non-dairy yogurts, tempeh

Try this: Kombucha spritzer with diced fresh fruit (such as pineapple or grapefruit) and your favourite PureFood powder. Add kimchi or sauerkraut as a garnish to burgers. Swap crumbled tempeh for tofu in stir-fries.

 

From smoothies to salads, there’s countless ways to integrate these top 5 nutrients to support cardiovascular health. What new foods or whole food supplements can you add to your grocery list this week?

Have a favourite way to use one of these top five nutrients? Leave us a comment, let’s share our motivation!

 

emma-andrews-ambassador-page-bio-photo-640x435-01Emma Andrews is a Vancouver based Holistic Sports Nutritionist (RHN), longevity educator, culinary explorer, and endurance athlete. Emma educates and empowers athletes – and life enthusiasts – to take a proactive approach towards their wellness and longevity. She believes the kitchen is your playground, and her goal is to inspire others towards a lifetime of health and physical activity.

 

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References:

  • “Vitamin C Benefits: May Be as Helpful to Your Heart as Walking.” com. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
  • Haas, Elson M., and Buck Levin. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006. Print.
  • “Anemia and Your Heart.” com. 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
  • B Vitamins and Heart Disease: Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed online Feb 19 2017 – https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b/#b-vitamins-heart-disease
  • Probiotics & Cardiovascular Disease, Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research. Accessed online, Feb 19 ‘17: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023901/