10 Best Foods for Your Heart

As we head into the Easter weekend, I wanted to offer you some blogs on healthier nutrition choices. Here are ten choices that you can make that will be heart healthy and are adapted from an article at Health.com.

1) Oatmeal

Start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. This fiber-rich superfood can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear. Opt for coarse or steel-cut oats over instant varieties—which contain more fiber—and top your bowl off with a banana for another 4 grams of fiber.

2) Salmon

Super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can effectively reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay. Aim for two servings per week, which may reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack by up to one-third. “Salmon contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, which is a very powerful antioxidant,” says cardiologist  Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, the author of Lower Your Blood Pressure In Eight Weeks. But be sure to choose wild salmon over farm-raised fish, which can be packed with insecticides, pesticides, and heavy metals. Not a fan of salmon? Other oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines will give your heart the same boost.

3) Avocado

Add a bit of avocado to a sandwich or spinach salad to up the amount of heart-healthy fats in your diet. Packed with monounsaturated fat, avocados can help lower LDL levels while raising the amount of HDL cholesterol in your body. “Avocados are awesome,” says Dr. Sinatra. “They allow for the absorption of other carotenoids—especially beta-carotene and lycopene—which are essential for heart health.”

4) Olive oil

Full of monounsaturated fats, olive oil lowers bad LDL cholesterol and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. Results from the Seven Countries Study, which looked at cardiovascular disease incidences across the globe, showed that while men in Crete had a predisposition for high cholesterol levels, relatively few died of heart disease because their diet focused on heart-healthy fats found in olive oil. Look for extra-virgin or virgin varieties—they’re the least processed—and use them instead of butter when cooking.

5) Nuts

Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids and, along with almonds and macadamia nuts, are loaded with mono- and polyunsaturated fat. Plus, nuts increase fiber in the diet, says Dr. Sinatra. “And like olive oil, they are a great source of healthy fat.”

6) Berries

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries—whatever berry you like best—are full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. “Blackberries and blueberries are especially great,” says Sinatra. “But all berries are great for your vascular health.”

7) Legumes

Fill up on fiber with lentils, chickpeas, and black and kidney beans. They’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber.

8) Spinach

Spinach can help keep your ticker in top shape thanks to its stores of lutein, folate, potassium, and fiber. But upping your servings of any veggies is sure to give your heart a boost.  The Physicians’ Health Study examined more than 15,000 men without heart disease for a period of 12 years. Those who ate at least two-and-a-half servings of vegetables each day cut their risk of heart disease by about 25%, compared with those who didn’t eat the veggies. Each additional serving reduced risk by another 17%.

9) Flaxseed

Full of fiber and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a little sprinkling of flaxseed can go a long way for your heart. Top a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with a smidgen of ground flaxseed for the ultimate heart-healthy breakfast.

10) Soy

Soy may lower cholesterol, and since it is low in saturated fat, it’s still a great source of lean protein in a heart-healthy diet. Look for natural sources of soy, like edamame, tempeh, or organic silken tofu. And soy milk is a great addition to a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. But watch the amount of salt in your soy: some processed varieties like soy dogs can contain added sodium, which boosts blood pressure.

So, use these tips to have a happy and highly healthy Easter … and make it a heart healthy one at that.

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3 Responses to 10 Best Foods for Your Heart

  1. Dr. Walt says:

    Someone who read about this post, wrote me on Facebook to ask, “Are almonds or pecans an exceptable substitute for walnuts?’ Here’s my answer:

    Almonds are very high in vitamin E, which may guard against heart disease. Almonds contain a natural form of the same drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

    Pecans have more antioxidants than any other nut, and so are purported as useful in the prevention of many diseases, including cancer and heart disease.

    As for some of the others:

    Brazil nuts are extremely high in the mineral selenium (1 nut exceeds the Dietary Reference Intake). These nuts may help to prevent cancer and heart disease. Selenium also helps the immune system fight off viral illness.

    Pistachios contain natural phytosterols, which help lower LDL and total cholesterol levels. Some studies have shown that eating pistachios regularly also may reduce cancer risk, particularly of the breast and prostate.

    Walnuts contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut. Eating walnuts is proven as beneficial for lowering total and LDL blood cholesterol levels, and reducing the risk of heart disease. The type of fat found in walnuts also is shown to benefit skeletal health.

  2. betsy says:

    I have read that blueberries are full of nutrients, but are inflamatory. Is this a concern for people at risk for rhumatoid disease?

    http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1851/2

  3. Dr. Walt says:

    Not that I know of. Does anyone else know for sure? I agree with the nutritionist, Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, who writes:

    Here are the kernels of truth out of which the blueberry legend seems to have grown:

    1. When measured for total antioxidant capacity (the ability to neutralize free radicals), blueberries score very high.

    2. Blueberry extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in various animal and test-tube studies.

    But these two things hardly make blueberries unique. Foods like artichoke hearts, chocolate, kidney beans, and cranberries have similar antioxidant capacity. Extracts of other berries and plants have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. So to annoint blueberries as a superfood is, in my mind, a little ridiculous.

    While we’re drawing comparisons, shouldn’t we also take into consideration that blueberries are higher in calories and sugar and lower in fiber and vitamin C than most other berries? And the differences aren’t minor:

    Strawberries have 6 times as much vitamin C, half the sugar, and 40% fewer calories

    Raspberries have 1/3 the sugar, twice the fiber and vitamin C, and 25% fewer calories

    I could go on, but I won’t. Personally, I think the whole idea of superfoods is silly. Clearly, some foods are more nutritious than others. But even in the realm of reasonably nutritious foods, different foods offer different nutritional benefits (and hazards). For my money, a balanced variety of nutritious foods is the way to go.

    I agree.

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