Heart-healthy foods

By: Brittany Bozik

It is a well-known fact that eating healthy foods can have many positive effects on your body. In addition to boosting your immune system, a well-rounded diet can help influence your health in other ways as well. Did you know that eating well can also help keep your heart healthy and functioning properly too? Here are ten foods that are heart-healthy which you should be including in your diet to keep your heart healthy.

Leafy greens

    • Leafy greens are a good source of vitamin K and nitrates, which protect your arteries, promote proper blood clotting, and reduce blood pressure. Foods like spinach, kale, and collard greens are known for their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 
    • Try adding leafy greens to a smoothie to mask the taste or have a leafy salad for lunch for a heart-healthy meal. 

Whole grains

      • Whole grains contain higher levels of fiber compared to refined grains, which reduces cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular issues. When you are buying whole grains, you should look for words like “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on the label. These phrases tell you that you are getting whole grain products. Descriptors such as “wheat flour” and “multigrain” do not equate to whole grains, however.
      • Switch up your bread the next time you shop for groceries and keep an eye out for something that includes the words “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on the label.

Berries

    • Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all delicious fruits that provide a lot of benefits for the heart. Berry fruits contain antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins that can counter the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation, which contribute to the progression of heart disease.
    • You can add berries to yogurt, cereal, a smoothie, or even to your water for an easy snack or drink, the next time you’re craving something sweet.

Avocados

    • Avocados are known for their ability to provide a good source of monounsaturated fats and potassium, which have been linked to lower levels of cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, and a minimized risk of heart disease.
    • Calling all avocado toast fans, this one is for you! Mash avocado on whole-wheat toast for a heart-healthy meal. 

Fatty Fish and Fish Oil

    • Adding salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna to your diet will provide you with omega-3 fatty acids. They have been studied extensively for their heart-healthy benefits, including reduced levels of total cholesterol, blood triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, and systolic blood pressure. If you don’t like eating seafood, fish oil supplements have been shown to help lower blood triglycerides, improve arterial function, and lower blood pressure.

Walnuts

    1. Walnuts contain magnesium, copper, and manganese, as well as fiber and a host of other micronutrients. Walnuts can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and may help protect against heart disease.
    2. Try a walnut trail mix for a heart-healthy snack. 

Beans

    1. Beans are high in resistant starch which can help promote a healthy gut. Resistant starch in beans can improve heart health by decreasing blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Beans have also been linked to reducing certain risk factors for heart disease as well. 
    2. If you are interested in including beans in your diet, try a bean salad with your next meal or go for a hearty chili on a cool evening.

Dark chocolate

  • Dark chocolate is known for antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health. Though the cocoa content must be at least 70% to reap the benefits. A study found that eating chocolate at least twice per week was associated with a 32% lower risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries. 

Tomatoes

    1. Tomatoes are known for having lycopene, a natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, which helps prevent oxidative damage and inflammation, two things that contribute to heart disease. It’s been shown that low blood levels of lycopene are linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
    2. Add tomatoes to a leafy green salad or even a whole grain bread sandwich for a heart-healthy meal. 

Almonds

    1. Almonds are another great source of monounsaturated fats and fiber, both of which can help protect against heart disease.  While almonds are high in nutrients, remember that they are also high in calories, so you’ll need to moderate your intake for maximum benefits. 
    2. Almonds are a great snack when you’re on the go! 

There you have it, ten simple foods to add to your diet to help you keep your heart health in check.

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