Updated: Feb 16
When it comes to eating for a healthy heart, the basic healthy eating principles are the same. Rely on a balance of lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats while reducing added sugars and salt, and limiting alcohol consumption.
Eating foods from the rainbow like berries are rich in antioxidants and fiber which have been shown to protect against the oxidative stress and the inflammation that contributes to heart disease. Foods like salmon and avocado are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to carry a whole host of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure and reducing triglycerides. to slowing the development of plaque in the arteries.
Whole grains such as brown rice and oats are a good source of dietary fiber and have been shown to provide other nutrients that can play a positive role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. And lean proteins such as chicken and fish will deliver quality protein with less saturated fat (aka the bad fat) than it's red meat counterparts.
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Salmon – this tasty fish offers heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Grill some up with fresh lemon, rosemary and thyme or drizzle a bit of olive oil, garlic, and dill for flavor and added heart healthy benefits.
Avocados – once called the Alligator Pear (little bit of trivia for you!) 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 makes it delish a top your salad, perfect as a tasty dip, a nice condiment for your fish or poultry, or simply sliced up to enjoy on its own.
Almonds & Walnuts – these nuts offer a multitude of healthy benefits from their omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber. Perfect for snacking or adding to your favorite recipe! Steer toward the raw and unsalted versions for optimal benefit.
Beans – black, kidney, pinto, and more! Long known as a vegetarians best friend because they are a good source of protein, iron, and dietary fiber, but did you know some versions are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids? Add them to your salad, whip up a zesty dip, or create a tasty wrap, the possibilities are endless.
Oatmeal – get more healthy heart benefit out of your breakfast with this grain that offers a nutrient packed punch of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, calcium and dietary fiber. Sprinkle on some cinnamon or top with fresh berries and nuts for even greater benefits.
Brown rice – this hearty grain is full of B-complex vitamins as well as niacin, magnesium, and fiber. The perfect side dish to most any meal it offers complex carbs for your body’s fuel tank while supplying the heart healthy benefits of essential vitamins and minerals.
Berries – blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and more! These tasty morsels are packed with vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium and fiber, and let’s face it they are absolutely delish! Add them to smoothies, top your Greek yogurt or oats, or just enjoy them a la carte.
Sweet Potatoes – one of my personal favorites and a daily staple in my diet these tasty veggies are packed with all sorts of goodness! A great source of beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C, and E, and dietary fiber they really are a superfood! With several varieties to choose from and just as many recipes the possibilities are truly endless. Looking for simple? Try baking or mashing them and adding a touch of cinnamon, cloves, and/or honey, enjoy.
Broccoli – little green trees consisting of beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber. Dip them raw in hummus, steam and enjoy with olive oil or fresh lemon, or try adding them to a tasty vegetable soup.
Tomatoes – the age old question, is it a fruit or vegetable? These tasty buggers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors but all pack a nutrient punch! Full of alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber they are a one-stop shop of goodness. Add them to pasta salad, toss them with your greens, or enjoy them on their own with a bit of olive oil, feta, and spice.
Oranges – liquid sunshine anyone? With alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, and folate all found inside this tasty globe its hard to go wrong. Add some to your favorite smoothie, fresh squeeze your own orange juice, add a few slices to add some pzazz to your H2O, add some citrus flair to your favorite salad, or simply peel and enjoy.
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.
Healthy Heart for a Healthy Life!
Healthy eating begins with healthy food choices. You don’t need a chef's culinary skill to create nutritious, heart healthy meals you will love. As you learn what to look for at the grocery store, restaurants, workplace and any other eating occasion, you'll feel empowered to make healthier choices.
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