Valentine’s Day Blog Post! How to Eat for a Healthy Heart

by in Acupuncture February 12, 2016

You may already know that our intestinal flora play a huge role in our immune health, but our gut bacteria also plays a role in many other functions, including our cardiovascular health.  It is true that what we eat defines much of us!

“Bacteria make a whole slew of molecules from food, and those molecules can have a huge effect on our metabolic processes” (Woolston, 2013).  We have 300 to 1,000 different species of flora in our guts, and they build our immunity, produce vitamins, and even produce hormones (Most, 2016).

Beyond all of those incredible functions, microbes in the gut can play a role in plaque formation and heart disease.   L-Carnitine is a nutrient found in red meat and dairy products.  “Gut microbes digest L-carnitine and help turn it into (the) artery-hardening chemical TMAO” and “high blood levels of TMAO are accurate predictors of impending hearts attacks, stroke, and death” (Most, 2016).  Evidence from research suggests that TMAO is a compound that can “alter the metabolism and slow the removal of cholesterol that accumulates on arteries’ walls (Woolston, 2013).

Recent studies showed that vegetarians and meat eaters had very different bacterial profiles in their gut, with vegetarians having much lower blood levels of TMAO.  This study suggests that beyond immunity and digestive health, our gut flora also protects the health of our blood vessels, and that red meat and egg intake should be limited if not avoided.

The best ways to keep your body’s microbiome (healthy bacterial profile) in good shape is to:

  • Eat fermented foods daily
  • Eat a diet rich in plant sources
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

(Most, 2016)

Fermented foods include:

  • miso
  • sauerkraut
  • kim chi and other picked veggies
  • kefir (water kefir is available, and it dairy free)
  • kombucha.

My new favorite recipe source for plant-based nutrition comes from Angela at Oh She Glows.
Her warm winter salad is delicious, and is aligned with the dietary principles of Chinese Medicine (to avoid cold, raw foods in the winter and use primarily cooked, steamed, roasted veggies.) 

According to Chinese Medicine, red foods such as cherries and beets nourish the blood.  Hemp seeds nourish heart qi (energy), cinnamon, and saffron help with circulation of heart qi.  To nourish the heart, as well as the whole body, keep a diet rich in plant sources, high in fiber, and low in refined sugars.

To your heart and good health,
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Present Sage Acupuncture!


Most, H. (2016). Mind-Body Science History [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://coursecontent.muih.edu/ISCI%20615/ISCI615%20M1%20History/

Woolston, Chris. “Red Meat + Wrong Bacteria = Bad News for Hearts.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

MaryFatimah Weening, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
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About MaryFatimah Weening, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
MaryFatimah has practiced acupuncture for over 10 years, and is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, and nationally board-certified by the NCCAOM. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, and a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from Maryland University of Integrative Health.