When I was single, Valentine’s Day always involved a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. The first time I spent Feb. 14 with my man, I plied him with a fatty meal that took hours to prepare — I was desperate to win his heart through his stomach. Both of those scenarios involved way too many calories, and resulted in tummy aches.
Since then, I’ve learned that love (especially the kind you give yourself) is better expressed by actions and healthy choices. Whether you’re meeting your snuggle buddy for a romantic dinner, gearing up for a besties’ night out or hanging with the DVR until this “holiday” blows over, here are a few ways to celebrate with your heart in mind.
There’s just something sultry about sipping a glass of wine. The red kind contains catechins and resveratrol — flavonoids that act as antioxidants in your bloodstream to help protect vessels, lower blood pressure and improve levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Toast your health by drinking one glass a day — any more than that puts stress on your liver, which is the opposite of sexy.
A handful of almonds or walnuts may not seem very romantic, but it does deliver healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Plus, nuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and a bunch of other nutrients, including vitamin E and magnesium — all of which have been shown in studies to promote a strong cardiovascular system. Serve them as an appetizer or toss some on a salad to complement your candlelit dinner.
When the waiter comes to take your entrée order, resist the temptation to get something creamy or fried (saturated fat alert!). Instead, go for the fresh catch of the day. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, especially wild salmon, are readily absorbed by the body and used to lower triglycerides, raise HDL, help repair muscle damage and strengthen your heart.
The special flavonoids found in dark chocolate (made with at least 70% cocoa) protect blood vessels by lowering blood pressure and reducing LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), and studies have shown eating about 1 ounce three times per week can improve blood flow and help prevent the formation of blood clots. Opt for a rich, decadent treat like fruit fondue or chocolate covered strawberries on V’Day.
Sadly, you’re not going to burn off a date-night dessert by getting busy between the sheets (even the steamiest session only burns around 14 calories), but a good romp is great for your heart. The feel-good hormones released during sex (even the solo kind) can help lower blood pressure and, like any activity that gets your heart pumping, can improve overall circulation and strengthen your ticker. Now that’s some action that says, “I love you!”
Kimberly A. Daly is a San Francisco-based healthy lifestyle expert and contributor to leading national media outlets. With a philosophy of approachable health and wellness, Kimberly’s unique point of view is recognized for being as relatable as it is authoritative. Her holistic approach taps into nutrition, fitness, lifestyle and emotional needs, and delivers results that her clients can maintain. Kimberly’s work has been featured in countless media outlets including Shape, Parents, People StyleWatch, and YouBeauty, to name a few.
Get more great tips and learn more about Kimberly on her blog, Some Kind of Runderful.