What really makes your heart happy?

by Christina Meyer Jax, Tastemaker in Residence

I’ve always been a fan of February. It’s “all about the heart” month. 

With Valentine’s Day and Heart Health month in full swing, I began to wonder what REALLY makes a person’s heart happy? The heart often represents a symbol of “emotional” well-being because a lot of input is needed in both diet and social support to help it go pitter-patter. What kind of input? Well, as any scientist would, I started looking for answers and asking questions!


  • Is chocolate good for the heart? As a foodie and dietitian I have endorsed my husband purchasing dark chocolate on Valentine’s Day (or quite frankly any day) for its many desired attributes! Scientific research indicates there may be benefits related to the glorious cocoa bean. However, studies haven’t yet identified the optimal dose for cardiovascular benefits. Personally, I’m hoping discoveries lead to higher range recommendations. For now, it’s suggested to limit yourself to a few squares of dark chocolate a day and make sure the first ingredient listed is cocoa or chocolate.
  • Does whole grain contribute to heart health? Well, I’m not the only one who has had this question! There have been several studies conducted on whole grain consumption and cardiovascular health. It’s becoming clear that a diet rich in whole grain foods is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Looks like whole grain foods are also a wise choice to include in a happy heart menu. 
  • What about gifts and acts of service? Yes, nutrition is vital to a happy heart, but is there more to cardio-contentment? I asked some friends and family (42 in all, yes mostly women) what they hope to receive this Valentine’s Day. After a few laughs about diamonds and exotic vacations, these were their top 5 heart hopes:
    • Clean house
    • Clothes (One of my friends created wish lists on her favorite websites. All her hubby has to do is click to purchase!)
    • Not having to cook
    • Thoughtful card or note
    • Homemade gift

One of the 42 surveyed was my husband. He is a bit of a humbug when it comes to Valentine’s Day and, as a frugal guy, isn’t too into “buying” gifts (guess no diamonds for me this year). I pressed him on what would make his heart happy this Valentine’s Day. “C’mon I need to write a blog about this!” I stated urgently. My husband’s response fit nicely into the “Not having to cook” (not a favorite chore of his) and “Homemade Gift” (yes he’s frugal) category. I also wanted to include my foodie research on chocolate and whole grain into the final gift. So I chose a “Chocolate Cheerios Heart Shaped Dessert” (adapted from this Betty Crocker recipe) made with love by me and my kids! Based on the research above, it should make my sweetie’s heart very happy!

What will be making your heart pitter-patter this Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month?