It’s officially American Heart Month, below are 10 foods that you can incorporate into your diet to help protect and/or improve your heart health.
10 Super Foods For Your Heart
- Fatty Fish, such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, and Sardines are high in omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce atherosclerosis ( plaque in the arteries) and decrease triglyceride levels. Eat a 3 ounce portion 2x/week for the benefit.
- Legumes, lentils, peas and dried beans are not only great vegetarian sources of protein, but they are also great sources of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber acts like a sponge, soaking up excess cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing its absorption into the bloodstream. These also help control blood sugar levels. Aim to eat 4-5 servings of ½ cup each week to reap the benefits.
- Oatmeal is also high in soluble fiber. They contain a specific fiber called beta glucan that acts to soak up excess cholesterol and expel it from the body. Instead of using the instant oats which have excess sodium, sugar, and less fiber, try using steel cut, old fashioned, or quick oats.
- Berries, including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and more are great sources flavonoids (antioxidants) called anthocyanins. They give the berries a red or blue color and are present in many fruits and veggies. They contain many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber that helps control blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Aim for three or more 1 cup servings per week.
- Kale, spinach, and broccoli, as well as other dark green vegetables, contain large amounts of carotenoids, fiber, and lots of vitamins and minerals all of which help keep your heart healthy. Kale even sports some omega 3 fatty acids. Go for at least 3-4, ½ cup servings weekly.
- Tomatoes are high in potassium and lycopene which help rid the body of bad cholesterol and dilate the blood vessels.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which help boost the good cholesterol, the HDL’s. These HDL’s help reduce your heart risk by taking excess cholesterol in the body to the liver where it is broken down and expelled from the body.
- Pomegranate and pomegranate juices contain many antioxidants including anthocyanins and polyphenols which may help reduce your risk of hardening of the arteries and help increase blood flow to the heart.
- Nuts and natural nut butters containing only nuts and salt in the ingredient list, contain heart-healthy fiber, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats and help keep your heart healthy through a variety of mechanisms. Aim for ¼ -1/2 cup of nuts or 2 Tablespoons of natural nut butters 5-7 days per week. Since nuts are rather high in calories be sure to adjust your calorie intake accordingly to include these healthy foods while preventing weight gain.
- Dark Chocolate containing 70% cocoa or more can help keep your heart healthy when eaten in moderation. Flavonoids called polyphenols help reduce blood pressure, inflammation and blood clotting. Enjoy 1-1.5 ounces daily (30-45grams). Remember that dark chocolate, though it has some attractive health benefits, also has calories, so do not think of it as a free food. Unfortunately milk chocolate does not have the heart-healthy benefits of the dark chocolate.