Updated: Jul 19
Is there a better time than Healthy Heart Month to talk about Healthy Heart Foods?
I am a firm believer that knowledge is empowering, and it is in that spirit that I bring to you this list of Healthy Foods for a Healthy Heart!
If you have ever thought eating healthy is too hard, complicated, or you just don't know where to start, this list of healthy heart foods will simplify it. Loaded with all sorts of delicious and nutritious heart healthy foods, you can begin to make a positive impact on your health, one bite at a time.
The American Heart Association recommends a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils.
Here are 14 foods to help you eat heart healthy:
Avocados – once called the Alligator Pear, this yummy green fruit is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex vitamins, dietary fiber, as well as containing vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate and potassium. Its mild flavor and creamy texture complements most any meal, from salads, soups and smoothies to hearty dips.
Almonds & Walnuts – these particular nuts offer a multitude of healthy benefits from their omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber. An excellent snack all on their own or sprinkled onto your favorite dish, even added to a variety of baked goods. Choose raw and unsalted varieties for optimal health benefit.
Berries – blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and more! These bite size nature's candies are packed with vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium and fiber. Enjoy them fresh or frozen, add them to smoothies, layer them into your Greek yogurt or morning oats, or enjoy them all on their own.
Beans – black, kidney, pinto, and garbanzo. Long considered a vegetarian's best friend because of their ability to provide quality protein, iron, and dietary fiber. And some varieties are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Try adding beans to your next salad, soup, or wrap. Blend them for a zesty dip or puree them for a healthy brownie twist. The possibilities are pretty endless!
Broccoli – sometimes called little green "trees," they are loaded with beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber. Enjoy them dipped in your favorite hummus, steam to enjoy with olive oil or fresh lemon, mash them into a batch of potatoes, or add a bunch to your next batch of soup.
Dark Chocolate – quality dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese as well as a few other minerals. A powerful source of antioxidants, including flavanols, which can improve blood flow in the arteries and have been shown to cause a small yet statistically significant decrease in blood pressure. Choose dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) to get more flavanols and less sugar.
Fatty Fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to carry great heart health benefits. Add some tuna to your salad or grill up some salmon with fresh lemon, rosemary and thyme or bake your favorite fish with a drizzle of olive oil, garlic, and dill for flavor and a bit of added heart healthy benefits.
Garlic – for centuries this spice has been used as a natural remedy to treat a variety of ailments. Garlic and its components have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. And it may help inhibit blood clot formation. A highly versatile spice that can easily be added to a variety of dishes.
Leafy Greens – such as spinach, kale, romaine and collard greens are well known for their variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin K and nitrates, which have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function. Studies have shown higher intakes of leafy greens are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Just another reason to love a good old hearty salad!
Oranges – often coined as liquid sunshine, the boast alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Peel and enjoy on their own, add some slices to your smoothie or salad, fresh squeeze your own juice, or add a few slices to your next glass of H2O. Refreshing and heart healthy.
Seeds – chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are all great sources of heart healthy nutrients, including fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle them on low fat Greek yogurt, add them to your morning smoothie, pair them with your favorite salad dressing, or bake them into muffins, cookies, breads and other batters.
Sweet Potatoes – one of my personal heart healthy favorites these tasty veggies are packed with all sorts of vitamin and mineral goodness. A great source of beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C, and E, and fiber. With several varieties to choose from and just as many ways to make them - bake, boil, mash, and more. A simple recipe hack is to bake your potato with the skin on until soft, then pop open with a fork to enjoy with a bit of cinnamon, cloves, and honey. YUM!
Tomatoes – fruit or vegetable? This fruit comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and each variety packs a nutrient punch. Loaded with alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber they are a one-stop shop of tasty goodness. Add them to pasta or salad greens, slice to enjoy with a bit of olive oil, feta, and spice, add them to soups, stews, and even baked goods.
Whole Grains – whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa are hearty grains that compared to refined grains, are higher in fiber, which can help reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. Whole grains offer a simple side to most any meal delivering complex carbs to support your body's energy needs while supplying a heart healthy dose of essential vitamins and minerals.
And to make it even easier for you to score those healthy food wins, I have created a free downloadable guide just for you!
What makes these foods heart healthy? The key is found in their nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids enhance the immune system, help to reduce blood clots, and decrease our chance of heart attack by increasing good HDL cholesterol levels, lowering triglycerides, and protecting arteries from plaque build-up.
B-Complex vitamins help to protect against blood clots and reduce the risk of hardening arteries, as well as increasing our good HDL cholesterol.
Antioxidants like vitamins C and E help to protect cells from free radical damage while Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure and Fiber works to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Carotenoids are antioxidants that offer heart-protective benefits and are commonly found in colorful fruits and vegetables, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene.
Support a Healthy Heart for a Long & Healthy Life!
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