With the Hallmark and Cupid-inspired Valentine’s Day falling on February 14, the timing could not be better to celebrate Heart Month with some love for activity and nutrition.

Both the American Heart Association and the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation have dedicated February as Heart Month to raise heart health awareness. An inactive lifestyle and inadequate diet are both risk factors for heart disease. Fortunately, these risk factors are things we can modify.

Activity Love

Not everyone welcomes the cold winter season with activity love. However, it is also not the time to become a sofa ornament. I’m sure the number of mall-walkers has soared during this snowy, icy winter. How about joining a friend at the gym or studio for a new zumba or yoga class? Why not make walking the museum a fun two hour indoor activity? Check out the Back to Fitness with Barley blog for more ideas how to love your heart with activity.

Barley Love

Now, let’s love our hearts with barley! Barley is one of Canada’s top heart-healthy foods.

In July 2012, Health Canada approved the health claim, “The consumption of at least three grams of beta-glucan from barley grain products per day helps reduce cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.” Let barley love your heart, as just a ½ cup (125 ml) of cooked pearled barley supplies 65 per cent of the daily amount of beta-glucans shown to lower cholesterol.

Research shows lowering sodium intake to optimal levels could reduce the incidence of stroke and heart disease by as much as 30 per cent. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) established for the amount of sodium for adults is between 1,200 mg and 1,500 mg depending on age. How does barley measure up in the sodium department? Great – a 100 g portion of dry grain barley contains only 12 mg of sodium.

Love your heart with these three barley recipes. All are prepared using better-for-you cooking methods and are full of heart healthy ingredients.

First up are homemade sunflower barley crackers. With only five ingredients including heart healthy barley, sunflower seeds and canola oil, these crackers are an easy swap for high sodium processed store-bought crackers.

Next is this scrumptious zucchini, bean, almond and barley salad. The almonds, red pepper and zucchini add a delicious crunch to this salad.

Jane’s heart health tip – use low sodium vegetable broth.

This is one of my favourite recipes in the file, curried chicken and barley. The flavours of ginger, curry and garlic make it a perfect warm up for February.

Jane’s heart health tip – use a can of low sodium diced tomatoes.

Before I wrap up, I want to include a special barley recipe for Valentine’s Day! Finish your heart healthy Valentine’s Day meal with these eye-catching (and indulgent) chocolate dipped almond biscotti.

The Heart Truth

Barley is one of the best foods to include in a heart healthy meal plan! Celebrate and love your body’s engine with good nutrition and fun activities. Happy Heart Month!


1 AbuMweis, SS, Jew, S, Ames NP. Beta-glucan from barley and its lipid –lowering capacity: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Eu J of Clin Nutr. 2010;64:1472-1480 

2 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The changing face of heart disease and stroke in Canada 2000; 1999 Oct (cited January 27 2014). http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/bsolc/olc-cel/olc-cel?lang=eng&catno=82F0076X