Planning a Heart Healthy Garden
A garden is a great way to improve your heart health. After all, it’s critical to heart health that you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Growing your own produce will make it easier to build every meal around these healthy vegetables.
As a side benefit, gardening is a great heart-healthy activity for spring. Getting out and cleaning up the yard, digging and mixing soil, and weeding helps you get healthy exercise while stretching and flexing. It’s even a stress-relieving activity for most people.
Plus, gardening gives you the opportunity to add produce to your diet without having to worry about pesticides, which might not be healthy. When planning your garden, it’s good to reference the published “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists, which show the commercial produce most likely to have high levels of pesticide on them. You can produce your own organic produce as an alternative to those that are high in pesticides and other contaminants.
Here are some recommended crops that are heart-healthy, help you avoid pesticides, and grow well in Colorado.
Strawberries are good for heart health because they’re high in antioxidants. Unfortunately, strawberries also top the Dirty Dozen list as having the most pesticides on them.
Fortunately, strawberries grow really well in Colorado. With proper fertilizer, these perennial plants can yield both spring and fall crops, and they can become thick enough to need little weeding. They even grow well in the high country. In fact, many mountain towns had prosperous strawberry industries before refrigeration let frozen strawberries ship more cheaply from California.
Spinach, Kale, and Other Greens
It’s important to eat leafy greens. These can help lower blood pressure and maintain healthy blood vessels. In fact, several studies have shown that eating more leafy greens is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, spinach and kale are also at the top of the dirty dozen list after strawberries.
The good news is that these dark greens can grow well in Colorado. Cold-hearty kale and other greens can be planted in both the spring and the fall. Depending on your yard, these vegetables might yield all summer long.
Although relatively low on the Dirty Dozen list, tomatoes are highly recommended for heart health. Tomatoes are high in lycopene, an antioxidant that’s been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Eating more fresh tomatoes can potentially lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Tomatoes are a bit more finicky than some other crops in Colorado, since they need a relatively long growing season and are less cold hardy. But it’s possible to get a great tomato yield in Colorado, and the reward is enjoying delicious tomatoes that are far better than anything you buy at the store.
Hot peppers are popular in Colorado, where any self-respecting restaurant will let you smother any dish in green chili. Not only that, but peppers are good for your heart. The anti-inflammatory effects of capsaicin—which gives chilis their spice—can reduce your risk of heart disease and even cardiac death. Unfortunately, hot peppers are also high on the list of dirty produce.
Therefore, it’s worth it to try to grow hot peppers in your garden. But be prepared: while southern Colorado produces bumper crops of hot chilis, they can be hard to grow in the Denver area, northern Colorado, or the high country. Start these plants inside or buy large plants from the garden store to get the most from your growing season. Also note: small spicy chilis mature faster and can give you more burn for your buck.
Let Us Help You Maintain a Healthy Heart
At South Denver Cardiology Associates, we know that heart disease prevention is far better than trying to cure a disease that’s far along. We want to help you develop a heart-healthy lifestyle and monitor your health with regular heart checkups.
To learn more about how we can help you get and stay healthy, please make an appointment online today.
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