HEART HEALTHY FOODS
While fewer people (per thousand) are dying from heart related illnesses than in previous years, it is still the number one killer of U.S. citizens. We have a few tips to keep this boogey man away from your door.
HEART HEALTH IN GENERAL
Heart disease (strokes and heart attacks) is still a killer, but we know a lot about how to prevent cardiovascular disease. In previous articles we’ve mentioned the importance of weight control and exercise. We’ve also mentioned the importance of diet.
THESE ARE THE HEART DISEASE RISK FACTORS OF WHICH YOU SHOULD BE AWARE:
- A family history of heart disease
- A sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
HEART HEALTHY FOODS
It’s clear that healthy eating and healthy living can make a huge difference. If you have one or more of the risk factors, or even if you don’t, make sure you are eating these foods on a regular basis.
- Almonds: Almonds have fiber as well as heart-healthy fats which can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Grab a small handful a day.
- Avocados: These fruits get their creamy texture from “good” (monounsaturated) fats, which lower your “bad” cholesterol.
- Barley: The fiber in barley can help lower cholesterol levels. It may lower blood sugar levels, too. Try it in soups or try barley grits as a cereal or side dish.
- Black Beans: Black beans have folate, antioxidants, and magnesium which can help lower blood pressure. Their fiber helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Add beans to boost soups and salads.
- Blueberries: Like cherries, blueberries have anthocyanins, those blood vessel-helping antioxidants. Those antioxidants give the berries their dark blue color. Blueberries also have fiber and other great nutrients.
- Cherries: Sweet cherries, sour cherries, dried cherries, and cherry juice -- they’re all good. Like blueberries, they have antioxidants called anthocyanins.
- Chickpeas: Like a black bean, the chickpea is a great source of soluble fiber which can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. If you’re buying them in a can, go for the no-salt variety.
- Dark Chocolate: Cacao (the chocolate plant) is rich in flavanols, which can help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. It also acts as an antioxidant, which can keep “bad” cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls. This applies only to DARK chocolate – not MILK chocolate.
- Edamame: You might not know what to do with this – so just toss some on a salad for starters. Edamame is the Japanese word for soybeans. Soy protein can help lower your cholesterol levels. A cup of edamame has 8 grams of heart-healthy fiber.
- Flaxseed: Flaxseed has fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids. Grind it and add it to your cereal, yogurt or mustard.
- Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs add flavor to your food without adding bad stuff. Spices are delicious ways to eat heart-smart.
- Low-Fat Yogurt: Yogurt can help control high blood pressure and is also high in calcium and potassium. Choose low-fat varieties.
- Oatmeal: Yum. A warm bowl of oatmeal fills you up for hours. The fiber in the oatmeal can help your heart by lowering “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Add berries, walnuts or almonds to your oatmeal for an added boost.
- Olive Oil: There isn’t much that you can’t cook with olive oil as a saturated fat (butter) substitute. Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy antioxidants. It can help lower cholesterol levels. Try it on salads and cooked veggies, or with bread.
- Oranges: Oranges have cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin plus potassium, which helps control blood pressure.
- Red Grapes: Red grapes have resveratrol, which helps keep platelets in your blood from sticking together. The red grape is also what makes red wine beneficial (in limited amounts).
- Red Wine: If you drink alcohol, a little red wine may be a heart-healthy choice. In addition to the resveratrol, red wine has and catechins, another antioxidant that may protect artery walls.
- Salmon: This is the super food for heart health. It’s rich in omega-3s which can lessen the risk of heart rhythm disorders and lower blood pressure. Omega-3s may also lower triglycerides and curb inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish per week.
- Sweet Potatoes: If you had to survive on a desert island with just one food – pick sweet potatoes. They have a low glycemic index, fiber, vitamin A and lycopene. And they taste good.
- Swiss Chard: This dark green, leafy vegetable is rich in potassium and magnesium which help control blood pressure. It also has fiber, vitamin A and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Tofu: Tofu has heart-healthy minerals, fiber and polyunsaturated fats. It can take on the taste of the spices or sauces you use to cook it. Try adding small amounts to your stir-fry dish as a start.
- Tuna: Tuna also has omega-3s. Albacore (white tuna in a can) has more omega-3s than other tuna varieties.
- Walnuts: Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, healthy fats called monounsaturated fats, and fiber. The benefits come when walnuts replace bad fats, like those in chips and cookies. Add a handful per day to your diet.
Take this list and print it. Carry it with you every time you shop for a heart-healthy diet. Bon appetite!