Marta Montenegro: Super Bowl Heart Rx

There is a rush of adrenaline. The heart rate and blood pressure go up. The respiration rate increases and the blood flow gets diverted to the muscles. This is what Tom Brady and Eli Manning will experience this Sunday at the Super Bowl XLVI. What they will feel is considered a normal body response to exercise, however, this is what YOU as a fan may put your body into it as well, especially if you are a die-hard Patriots or Giants fan.

Are you serious? But I’m not even close to being one of the players on the field.

Erin Palinski, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, nutritionist specialized in cardiovascular health and author of the coming book Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, October 2012, explains, “Sporting events and the emotions involved in watching them can cause an increase in the sympathetic nervous system, leading to the increased production and circulation of catecholamines. Research has indicated an increase in heart rate and blood pressure in spectators watching a game. Increased concentrations of catecholamines can trigger arrhythmias and increase platelet aggregation.”

Ball threat

Augmented cardiovascular and hormonal response prepares the body for the upcoming physical exertion. Watching your favorite team may put your body in a “threat” environment, which will trigger the same response even though you are just sitting in the couch, screaming at the TV and munching greasy food.

Indeed, Palinski points out some research evidence in where a study out of the Netherlands found an increase in mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke on the day of an important football match between the Netherlands and France. “The end result of this game was determined in a penalty shoot-out,which seemed to increase the cardiac risk- stressful/suspenseful ending,” she says.

Sports Pix of the Week

Another study out of England found acute MIs increased by 25 percent on the day England lost to Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, a match that also ended in a high-stress penalty shoot up.

Food trigger

Even if you exercise regularly, you may be at-risk if game day consists of eating wings and drinking beer.

“Research has shown that three hours after eating a meal high in saturated fat, the body underwent changes that could increase risk of a cardiac event. The arteries had a decreased ability to expand to increase blood flow. Six hours after a high fat meal, HDL cholesterol’s anti-inflammatory properties declined,” says Palinski.

Since foods high in saturated fat and sodium can increase heart disease risk and raise blood pressure, it may be helpful to include foods that fight high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol at your Super Bowl party.  The nutritionist points out those foods rich in magnesium and potassium can help reduce blood pressure and foods rich in monounsaturated fat can help raise healthy HDL-C.

So throw in your party food mix some food high in potassium such as bananas, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, and apricots. Another helpful ingredient is magnesium, which can be found in pumpkin seeds, cocoa powder, almonds, edamame and sunflower seeds. Also, don’t forget foods high in monounsaturated fat like olive oil, almonds, peanuts, almond butter, hummus, olives and avocado.

In addition to these foods, juice up with cranberry and orange juice (100%, not ones with added sugar). Studies show that the red stuff may reduce arterial stiffness while gulping a glass of OJ after a high fat and carbohydrate meal acts as anti-inflammatory and prevents blood vessel damage, concludes a study from University of Buffalo.

Super Bowl Nachos

Although research shows that sporting events have a stronger cardiac impact on men when compared to women, this may be due to women tend not to be as emotionally involved in the outcome, says Palinski.

Anti-HA snacks

Some healthy options that Palinski suggests are:

Baked whole grain tortilla chips with salsa

Chicken tenderloins cooked in hot sauce vs. fried wings

Nuts and seeds

Healthy trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate chips (70 percent or above)

Raw veggies and hummus

Fresh fruit

Order pizza without the cheese and ask for extra veggies.

Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream to mix up the dip. Use baked or low-fat chips.

Make nachos using reduced fat cheese and baked chips.

Drink diet soda, non-alcoholic beer and soda water instead of regular beer, soda or juice.

Use low-fat microwave popcorn or even better, air popped.

Make submarine sandwiches using non-fat mayo, mustard, low-fat cheese and lean deli meats like turkey breast. Skip the ham, salami and bologna while piling on veggies such as pepper strips, sprouts, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, pickles, cucumbers and grated carrots.

Make a pot of vegetarian chili instead of the regular beef based, or use low-fat ground turkey breast instead of the regular beef.

Super bowl touchdown healthy recipes

by Lisa Roberts-Lehan, Certified Health and Nutritional Consultant, and Holistic Chef

Kale and Collard Chips

Yield: 4 servings


1-2 bunches of organic kale and/or collard greens

Extra-virgin olive oil

Himalayan crystal salt or Real Salt to taste

Black pepper, cayenne pepper, curry, or smoked paprika (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove kale or collards from the center rib, leaving the greens in large pieces. Using your fingertips, apply a very light coat of oil over the leaves.  Sprinkle the leaves with salt (optional) and season with your choice of black pepper, cayenne pepper, curry, or smoked paprika (optional). Spread the leaves out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until they begin to brown a bit around the edges (this can happen quickly). Flip the leaves over and bake the other side up for 1-2 minutes or until crisp. Remove and serve

Pecorino Popcorn

Yield: 8 cups


1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or extra-virgin coconut oil (optional)

?-1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

Himalayan crystal salt or Real Salt to taste

Directions:  Pop the popcorn in an air-popcorn maker or coat the bottom of a large, heavy pot with oil and heat over medium heat.  Add three kernels of corn.  When they pop, add the remaining kernels, cover and gently shake the pan over the burner until all of the corn has popped, being careful not to burn.  Immediately, transfer the popcorn in a large bowl and add the cheese, tossing gently.  Add seasonings to taste and serve immediately.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning, coach and master trainer who is an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, combines fitness, nutrition and health  tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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