February is American Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly half of all Americans have at least one key risk factor for heart disease. While there are some heart disease risks that cannot be controlled (like age and genetics) there are certainly lifestyle changes we can all make to create better cardiovascular health. As you probably know, being physically active and not smoking are big steps you can make in the direction of heart health. Another huge factor in heart health is diet—we all know what we shouldn’t eat, but how about what we should?
There are a lot of different nutrients we can look for to support a healthy heart, and a great place to start is fruits and vegetables. There are many delicious and wonderful fruits and vegetables that support the cardiovascular system, but one healthy and especially tasty addition to a heart-healthy diet is Hatch chile. All colorful fruits and vegetables are an important part of a heart-healthy diet, but chile is a particularly great diet addition because it contains potassium, folate, magnesium, niacin, and vitamins K and C—each of which can support heart health.
Potassium: Hatch green chile boasts 255 milligrams (mg) per serving, and red isn’t far behind at 194 mg per serving. Potassium is vital to the health of the cardiovascular system by supporting healthy blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, and regulated heartbeat.
Folate: High homocysteine levels in your blood is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, but folate helps control homocysteine levels, which can in turn help lower heart disease risk. Hatch chile contains 17 mcg of homocysteine-controlling folate.
Magnesium: This is crucial for heart health because magnesium supports healthy heart rhythm, can help lower blood pressure, and even prevent angina. A serving of Hatch green chile contains 19 mg of the 300-400 mg of magnesium most adults need each day. While 19 mg may not seem like a lot, magnesium is such an important part of heart health, every source is important.
Niacin: Hatch red chile contains .9 mg of the recommended daily allowance of 14-16 mg of niacin for adults (and green chile comes in just behind at .7mg of niacin). This is greats news because niacin supports healthy circulation as well as healthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Vitamin K: Diets rich in vitamin K can support heart health by helping to prevent calcification in the arteries and slowing the progression of atherosclerosis. Delicious Hatch green chile contains 10 mcg of vitamin K per serving.
Vitamin C: This vitamin can support a healthy vascular system as well as healthy blood pressure. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce it, so we need to supplement with foods that contain vitamin C. The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 100-200 mg. Most people think of oranges when it comes to a diet rich in vitamin C, but a serving of Hatch chile contains approximately 177 mg of vitamin C, while a serving of oranges only contains 51 milligrams of vitamin C.
Choosing to adopt a heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to bland culinary existence. Cooking with delectable Hatch red and green chile is a wonderful way to add both nutrients and flavor to a heart-smart diet. Best of all, whether you choose hot or mild green and red chile, the nutritional benefits are the same, so you can customize chile to your personal preference and still reap the healthy benefits. There’s no substitute for Hatch chile when it comes to flavorful nutrition!
Laura Glenn Combs is a customer service representative for The Fresh Chile Company. She has enjoyed studying Nutrition and Health Sciences both academically and personally over the past 20 years. She and her husband have loved life (and Hatch Chile!) in New Mexico for the past 18 years, and deeply appreciate having the opportunity to raise a family in the Land of Enchantment.