This Valentine’s Day, give yourself some love and show your brain, heart, and lungs just how much they mean to you.
Keep your heart healthy and happy with nutrient-packed plant-based foods. Studies show that eating a plant-based diet can prevent, manage, and even reverse heart disease. Want to give your heart a gift this Valentine’s Day? Why not try tart cherries, which are packed with vitamin A and delicious on top of heart-healthy overnight oats. Lentils and other legumes help fuel your body, with one cup of red lentils giving you 18 grams of protein! Another great source of protein is tofu, and soy has protective benefits for your body as well. Snack on these before you lace up your sneakers for a walk or run. Along with a low-fat plant-based diet, regular exercise is important for a healthy heart and can help prevent disease. Make your diet low fat by swapping out oil for low-sodium vegetable broth!
Plant-based foods are beneficial to the brain and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Vitamin E, found in nuts and seeds, helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseed all contain high amounts of vitamin E in even a small serving and are a great gift for your brain this Valentine’s Day!
Berries are rich in antioxidants, which fight harmful free radicals and help improve learning and memory recall. Foods with beautiful pigments such as grapes, blueberries, and raspberries, indicate high amounts of powerful brain-boosting antioxidants (and many even contain vitamin E.) Eating green leafy vegetables provides folate and B6, two important brain-protecting vitamins. Another B vitamin, B12, is difficult for people to absorb through foods, but a B12 supplement ensures you are getting the trio of brain-protecting power: folate, B6, and B12.
Make sure you are cooking your plant-based meals in a ceramic or non-aluminum pan because some metals, like iron, copper, and aluminum, can lead to a decline in brain health. Sleep is also one of the best gifts to give yourself this year. Getting at least seven hours of sleep each night will help your brain stay healthy. Wind down without your phone or excess screen time to help get a better night’s sleep. Reading is a great way to relax, and you can learn more about your brain’s love language by gifting yourself Dr. Neal Barnard’s book, Power Foods for the Brain.
Our lungs need love, too! Plant-based diets are high in fiber, which has been positively associated with improvements in lung function. Fiber also promotes a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a role in immune responses and airway diseases. A plant-based diet can reduce systemic inflammation, which can exacerbate asthma. Eating fruits and vegetables may be especially beneficial when it comes to asthma. Studies have shown that high consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to a decreased risk for asthma in children and adults. Fruits and vegetables have also been shown to improve lung function and make asthma symptoms, including wheezing, more manageable.
Treat yourself to the gift of fruit, which is packed with antioxidants and flavonoids that can improve lung function. Put a banana on top of oatmeal and enjoy whole grains, which can reduce inflammation. Our lungs love nondairy milk! Dairy has been shown to increase the risk for asthma in children and can even worsen symptoms in those who have asthma. Our free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart app will help you adopt a plant-based diet and give the gift of health to your lungs, brain, and heart, every day!