10 Best Foods for Your Heart
In a fast-paced world where convenience trumps (more time- and labor-intensive) healthy home cooking, the battle is on to protect your heart. The food choices you make can drastically affect your heart health, energy and appetite control. Keep your heart in tip-top shape with choices that are tasty, healthy and convenient for the entire family. From berries and nuts, to fish and leafy greens, find out which foods are best for your heart.
Satisfy your sweet tooth while chomping on a slice of watermelon, a low-calorie treat that is high in fiber and a great source of antioxidants. It’s a fabulous source of lycopene, which has been linked to a lower risk for heart disease and cancer. Watermelon also supplies citrulline, which may improve the health of our blood vessels and may even have benefits for people with erectile dysfunction and diabetes. Watermelon is also a source of vitamins C and A, as well as potassium and magnesium.
For a sweet and savory treat that won’t clog your arteries, opt for a cup of yogurt, which will protect more than just your heart. Yogurt protects against gum disease, which can increase your risk of heart disease. In addition to reducing your risk of heart disease, when you eat yogurt, you also absorb powerful antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and probiotics that are beneficial to your overall health, digestion and well-being. Top with fresh or frozen berries for a sweet and healthy treat during the day.
Tomatoes contain a solid dose of heart-healthy vitamin C and like watermelon, are rich in lycopene. Vitamin C works as an antioxidant, protecting your cells from damage.
Avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fats and are a source of potassium, a mineral also known for controlling blood pressure. They are also a great source of vitamin C, fiber and carotenoids. Carotenoids have been associated with a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In addition to offering a beneficial dose of fiber, avocados have been shown to help the body absorb other antioxidants when eaten with veggies such as spinach and carrots.
Packed full of antioxidants, berries are a great snack choice to keep your heart healthy. Berries increase good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol while lowering your blood pressure. In addition, the low-calorie, fat-free fruit (in any form: fresh, frozen, dried or cooked) contains nutrients that promote bone growth and the conversion of fat to energy. These little cancer fighters combat oxidation and inflammation and should be eaten daily. As if that’s not enough, the hardworking fruit possess polyphenols, which have been shown to increase levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that causes blood vessels to relax.
Just a half-cup of beans a day will keep your heart in optimal shape. Soluble fiber is a key reason why beans are beneficial to your heart. The fiber binds to cholesterol and keeps it from being absorbed in the gut and building up to unhealthy levels. Add some black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto or white beans to your next meal for that extra dose of soluble fiber, in addition to folate, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and B-complex vitamins — all essential nutrients to keep your heart healthy
This Peruvian wonder pseudo-grain (it’s actually a seed) is an incredible nutritional multitasker. It’s a fabulous source of vegetable protein, which is better for heart health, kidney health and blood pressure than protein from red meat. In addition, quinoa contains almost twice the amount of fiber as other grains. Full of antioxidants and a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat — the same type of fat found in olive oil and avocados — quinoa is a much-needed source of fiber and is gluten-free.
When you serve salmon as your main entrée you’ll keep your blood pumping and your heart in prime shape. Studies show consuming fish regularly each week is associated with a 30 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease over the long term. Cold water fish, such as salmon, contain omega-3 fats, lower levels of harmful lipid levels. Omega-3s also lower blood pressure slightly and can help prevent irregular heart rhythms, while also reducing inflammation throughout the body. Serve your salmon with a side of collard greens and you have a scrumptious, heart-friendly meal.
Almonds are another smart option to maintain a healthy heart. Just a handful of almonds a day have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Almonds are loaded with vitamin E, fiber and protein — all necessary nutrients to keep your heart in top shape. In addition to eating nuts by the handful, you can also incorporate almonds into your baked goods.
Whole grains will keep your heart healthy and help you to maintain your weight, a necessary heart-healthy action considering that obesity is a risk factor for heart disease and heart-related complications. Start your day off with a bowl of oatmeal. At least half the grains in your diet should be whole grains, but the more the better. Whole grains are more filling, they help you eat less and thus they help with weight control. Whole grains have also been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.