February is “Heart Month”, so let’s talk about something most of us don’t talk about very often…. our heart. Not the most exciting thing you’ve thought about today, let’s admit, but a healthy heart sure is important!
To start with the bad news, heart disease is still the top killer of Americans. But, the good news is that rates have been declining in recent years, and we now know how to prevent cardiovascular disease (like strokes and heart attacks). To prevent an attack, eat foods rich in nutrients, fiber and “good” fats.
Here are some heart-healthy superfoods to incorporate into your diet:
Why? Avocados are high in “good” fats, antioxidants and potassium.
Why? Blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidants which may decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Studies have shown that those who ate blueberries and strawberries three times each week had a 32% lower risk of a heart attack.
Why? Oranges and grapefruit contain vitamin C which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. They also contain flavonoids which have been shown to reduce the risk of ischemic stroke.
Why? Coffee has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease or a stroke.
Why? Dark chocolate that is made up of at least 60-70% cocoa helps control blood pressure, clotting and inflammation. Studies have shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Why? Olives and olive oil are good sources of monounsaturated “good” fats which help improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Flax & Chia Seeds
Why? Flax and chia seeds are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. A bonus is that you can easily incorporate these into the foods you’re already eating.
Why? Greens like broccoli, spinach and kale are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. They also have antioxidants that help rid your body of harmful substances. Kale also contains omega-3 fatty acids.
Why? Green tea contains antioxidants and has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes.
Why? Legumes are high in protein and help control blood sugar. Studies have shown that people who ate beans, lentils and peas four times each week had a 22% decreased risk of heart disease.
Why? There is fiber and vitamin E in nuts like peanuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Some nuts, like walnuts, are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Why? Old-fashioned oatmeal, or even quick-cooking oats, can lower cholesterol because of it’s high-soluble fiber.
Why? Pomegranates contain that antioxidants that help prevent hardening of the arteries. Studies have shown that drinking pomegranate juice daily has increase blood flow to the heart.
Why? Potatoes are rich in potassium which can lower blood pressure, and they’re high in fiber which can lower the risk for heart disease.
Why? Red wine, low amounts of alcohol and coffee are believed to lower the risk of heart disease because they contain resveratrol. (Resveratrol can also be found in peanut butter and grapes if you want to skip on alcohol or coffee.)
Salmon (& other Fatty Fish)
Why? Salmon, sardines, and mackerel contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to lower the risk of arrhythmia and plaque build-up in the arteries. The American Heart Association recommends eating salmon twice per week or take a dietary supplement.
Why? Soy adds protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats to your diet. It can also decrease “bad cholesterol” and reduce blood pressure.
Why? Tomatoes are rich in potassium which can lower blood pressure. They are a good source of antioxidants that help get rid of “bad” cholesterol, keep blood vessels healthy and reduce the risk of a heart attack.