food on a blue background

As it continues to heat up in California, food choices are also changing with the season. 

Loma Linda University International Heart Institute dietitian, Julianne Penner, MS, RD, says weather and food choices are not the only changes people experience in the summer. Penner says you may also see fluctuation in appetite. Knowing what your body needs and fueling it correctly in the summer enables your cardiovascular health to soar during these hot months.

“Appetite lowers naturally in the summer, and that is normal and okay,” Penner says. “It’s perfectly fine and beneficial for most people to have two meals per day. If you go 16 hours without eating, your body can do significant self-healing, which contributes to excellent heart health.”

Part of that self-healing is fat burning, improved energy, reduction of inflammation, digestive rest and healing, improved insulin sensitivity and reduction in chronic diseases. 

When choosing your meals or fueling your body this summer, Penner wants people to keep these three things in mind

  1. Choose hydration carefully. Dehydration can cause strain on your heart and even lowers the blood circulation and blood volume in your body. Penner suggests keeping heavily hydrated with water between meals and throughout the day to keep your heart healthy.
  2. Choose to sprinkle in antioxidants. Antioxidants have the capability of preventing plaque (the build-up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in the blood) from forming on the artery walls. Penner suggests sprinkling some of these plaque-fighting ingredients in meals whenever you can: oregano, cinnamon, marjoram and mint. She says mint is a really easy one to throw into a tea, smoothie or drink of your choice.
  3. Choose mineral and electrolyte-rich foods. Penner suggests mineral- or electrolyte-rich foods because they have ingredients that help with each aspect of cardiovascular health. In particular, foods rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium. Potassium helps with proper heart rhythm, nerve transmission, muscle contractions and glucose metabolism. Magnesium helps with muscle relaxation and energy production. Calcium helps with preventing blood clots. To find foods rich in these minerals, Penner suggests almonds, cashews, figs, dates, avocado, parsley, tofu and any foods from the cabbage family.

Penner’s key takeaway? She recommends taking small steps — they are better than none. If changing your entire diet seems too much of a task, she suggests trying to incorporate one thing one week at a time, which can help you climb the ladder to great heart health.