Everyone has their favorite food season. If it’s winter, I’m sure you’re licking your lips at the chance to enjoy hearty classics like chili, soups, stews, meat pies, and more.
These foods are comforting, high-calorie, and depending on how you make them, may promote or prevent heart troubles.
Taking a proactive approach to heart health in the winter is a good idea, especially if you are heading outdoors. Cold temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, making it harder to pump oxygen-rich blood to your organs. This can put all kinds of added pressure on your heart.
Focusing on foods that promote better blood flow may help ease the extra burden on your heart and reduce the risk of a heart attack. Eating foods that boost nitric oxide may help with this.
Nitric oxide is a molecule that helps dilate blood vessels (called vasodilation; cold temperatures cause vasoconstriction) to allow greater blood flow. Certain foods enhance nitric oxide production.
Thankfully, there are several common winter foods, like meat, chocolate, and nuts that increase nitric oxide. Some of the best offerings are found in:
- Meat (poultry, seafood, etc.)
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Red wine
Beet soups, adding leafy greens to stews and meat pies, and snacking on nuts can all help boost blood flow in the winter.
A sip of beet juice or a handful of nuts before heading out for a walk or shovel might help keep your blood vessels open and relaxed despite the cold.
One thing to keep in mind is that vasodilation may make you feel warmer than you actually are. Alcohol, in particular, leads capillaries just under the skin’s surface to dilate. Because the skin feels warm, it’s easy to think that your core temperature is higher.
To avoid confusion, avoid alcohol before going outside. Further, if you feel warmer than the temperature indicates, remember this is a potential effect of vasodilators. Keep your jacket and hat on.
You can also dress in layers that are easily removed and reapplied.
Keeping long- and short-term heart health in mind this season might help you enjoy this and future winters a little more.