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5 Ways to a Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day could be good for the heart in more ways than one. We’ve come up with 5 practical and delicious ways to keep that special day romantic whilst contributing to better heart health.

  1. Delight in dark chocolate

A little bit of high quality chocolate may be beneficial for your heart. Cocoa beans used to make chocolate are rich in flavonoids which are naturally found in plants and have antioxidant activity.

Antioxidants help to protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals which are formed by normal bodily processes. Flavanols, the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa, also has other potential heart-health benefits such as:

  • Lowering blood pressure

  • Improving blood flow to the brain and heart

  • Supporting better blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity

The type of chocolate with the highest amount of flavanols would be one that contains a higher percentage cocoa such as dark chocolate or cocoa powder. So, indulge in some chocolate with your loved one this Valentine’s Day, but do so in moderation because chocolate is nonetheless high in kilojoules and saturated fat. Try this chocolate custard pudding for dessert.

  1. Pour a glass of romantic red  

A glass of red wine with your Valentines meal may actually do the heart some good. Red wine contains plant compounds called polyphenols which may partly be responsible for its heart-protective benefits which include antioxidant activity, decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and increasing ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels. Alcohol, as well as the polyphenols in wine, have also been found to have a blood-thinning effect, which in turn can reduce the risk of strokes.

If choosing to drink, then it is recommended to do so in moderation which is no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men. One drink is a small glass of wine (120 ml), a can of beer (340 ml) or a tot of any spirit (25 ml). If you don’t currently drink alcohol, then there’s no need to start in order to achieve health benefits as there are several other foods rich in such antioxidants and other more effective ways to take care of your heart such as regular exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking.

  1. Express your love

Could love improve heart health? Satisfying relationships and social support do not only make us feel happy and loved, but may also provide health benefits. One reason for this is that it may lower harmful levels of stress and stress hormones. Many behaviours could elicit this calming effect and sense of security and support, such as human touch or showing affection, affirming our love for one another, caring behaviours or offering help.

There are also broader reasons why good relationships may provide health benefits in the long-term, such as loved ones providing encouragement to take better care of ourselves, preparing and enjoying healthy meals together and supporting each other to go for regular health check ups.  All the more reason to celebrate and appreciate relationships of all shapes and sizes this Valentine’s Day. Let loved ones, close friends and family know how much they mean to you by doing something special for them.

  1. Add your personal touch with a homemade meal

The luxury of enjoying a romantic meal at home is that you can add your special touch to the table with flowers and candles, at a fraction of the cost. The other benefit is that you can control exactly what meal you make, what goes into it and how much you portion. Prepare your candlelit dinner using any of these delicious heart-healthy recipes.

  1. Give a heart-pumping gift

Give some gifts from the heart this Valentine’s Day that will also be good for your loved one’s heart.

  • A fruit basket filled with antioxidant-rich red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, cherries and red grapes.

  • A sports watch or pedometer. Go for walks together and monitor your fitness.

  • A funny book or DVD series since laughing is good for the heart.

  • Plan an experience to spend quality time together such as a walk or cycle through the local park.

  • Write a meaningful card or poem reaffirming your love.

Tip for singletons:Round up all your single friends for a heart-healthy dinner party. Play Secret Valentine (Cupid’s version of Secret Santa) where each person has to bring a gift such as any of those listed above, then each person draws a number from a hat and in order, according to the numbers drawn, each person can take their pick from the pile of heart-healthy gifts. This way everyone receives a gift!