5 Top Heart Healthy Foods
It’s a common misconception that to be healthy you have to give up the pleasure of eating and trade in dinner time for gym time. In actuality, focusing on eating heart healthy foods can benefit your body just as much as an extra session on the treadmill. By packing your diet full of vitamin and nutrient-rich foods, you can worry less about how much you are eating and simply enjoy meals full of flavorful, healthy food. To create a more heart-healthy diet for you and your family, base meals primarily on the following foods, which offer a huge variety of beneficial nutrients for your body.
The omega-3s found in fish like salmon and tuna may be called “fatty” acids but these powerhouses actually reduce heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol build up. Omega-3 has also been shown to aid in brain, eye and nerve function. Because of these wide-reaching benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice per week. For an easy fatty acid fix, top salad greens with canned tuna and fruit, or try this easy Mediterranean grilled salmon for a quick dinner.
Almost every kind of nut from almonds to walnuts offers up significant nutrition aimed at protecting your heart. The mono- and polyunsaturated fats, as well as more omega-3 fatty acids, work to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Packed with fiber, nuts also help keep you feeling full and may prevent diabetes. Eating 1.5 ounces, or about a handful, of nuts each day can actually reduce your risk of heart disease. Toss a few sliced almonds on top of morning yogurt or oatmeal for a breakfast protein boost. You can also make your own heart healthy trail mix by combining assorted nuts with dried fruit and chocolate for an on-the-go snack.
Every elementary school kids knows that “beans, beans are good for your heart!” whether or not they actually eat them. Not only are beans one of the most versatile pantry items to have on hand, but they also provide a natural source of protein and iron while being cholesterol-free and low in fat. The double-whammy of soluble and insoluble fiber found in these legumes like black or kidney beans can decrease cholesterol and help maintain a healthy digestive system (hence the low-brow ending to the playground rhyme). Stir in a handful of beans to your favorite soup recipe and make your own hummus with a can of fiber-rich chickpeas.
While doctors still can’t quite put their finger on why it’s good for us, red wine has been proven to promote overall heart health. The antioxidants found in red wine appear to affect the heart by protecting the lining of blood vessels, which has been linked to reduced inflammation and blood clotting. If you enjoy an occasional drink, aim for one 5 oz. serving of red wine with dinner each night. Doctors still warn, however, that if you don’t already drink alcohol the risks of starting outweigh the possible benefits.
Whole fruits & veggies
The naturally occurring nutrients found in whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables offer a range of benefits for your heart and overall health. Getting five servings of fruit and vegetables a day is important, no matter what form (juiced, frozen, canned) they come in; however, eating produce fresh off the tree or out of the ground (and washed, of course) ensures you are getting the maximum benefits of your efforts. For serious heart health, look for carrots (alpha carotene), blueberries (beta carotene, vitamin C), spinach (magnesium, potassium) and broccoli (vitamins C and E) at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Eating whole produce doesn’t mean you’re stuck gnawing on a stalk of celery, though. Chop up a ripe tomato (high in lutein and lycopene) with an onion and herbs for some fresh pico de gallo or make a big bowl of fruit salad to enjoy over ice cream for a summer treat.
Thank you Ashley for an awesome guest post. I love all the recipes you linked to and appreciate you taking the time to show us your top heart healthy foods list. I have enough tomatoes from my garden to hopefully make up some homemade pico de gallo. Yum!