9 heart-healthy foods to fuel your diet


9 heart-healthy foods to fuel your diet

Committing to a heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean you’re limited to eating foods that lack flavor. There are plenty of delicious foods on the heart-healthy list that are easy to incorporate into your diet.
Because heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., it’s important to look for ways to lower your risk. One of the most important steps anyone can take is to eat a healthy diet.
“The goal is to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins,” says Jamie Kandora, clinical nutrition manager at Tidelands Health. “Limit your intake of processed foods and reduce your consumption of foods with added sugars and saturated fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular and other disease.”
Wondering which foods to consider? Here are nine heart-healthy options, as well as some suggestions for how you can work these into your meal plan:

1. Salmon

Considered a super food, salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish every week.
Work it in: Top a salad with salmon or bake this fish with your favorite vegetables seasoned with herbs and spices.

2. Walnuts

Instead of snacking on cookies or potato chips, grab a handful of walnuts instead. These nuts are rich in omega-3s as well, and contain monounsaturated fats, which are considered good fats as opposed to the saturated fats you find in many processed snack foods.
Not a fan of eating walnuts alone?
Work it in: Sprinkle a salad with walnuts or look for walnut oil at the grocer to use in a heart-healthy salad dressing.

3. Edamame

Popular as an appetizer in Asian eateries, edamame is used to describe immature green soybeans. It offers heart-healthy fiber and soy protein, which studies have shown can help reduce LDL cholesterol.
Work it in: Steam or boil a cup of edamame, then pop out the yummy bean from the pod for a tasty and healthy treat before or between meals.

4. Tofu

For a heart-healthy protein, consider adding tofu to your diet. This soy protein source is favored by vegetarians for its rich composition of healthy minerals, fiber and polyunsaturated fats (another good fat). If you’re vegetarian or just trying to cut back on egg consumption, it also makes a great substitute for eggs in recipes.
Work it in: Add tofu to soups to boost your protein intake.

5. Black beans

The folate, antioxidants and magnesium in black beans make them a top choice for lowering blood pressure. A great substitute for meat, beans are also a good source of fiber to help control cholesterol and blood sugar levels. When cooking with canned black beans, rinse them to remove added salt.
Work it in: Mix them with brown rice and add spices such as garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes for a delicious bean burrito.

6. Almonds

For an easy way to add a healthy fat and a complete protein that’s packed with fiber, magnesium and vitamin E, chomp away on a handful of almonds. Another super food, almonds offer a plethora of health benefits. They’re known to lower blood sugar levels, reduce high blood pressure and lower bad cholesterol. You can easily add them to salads, chicken and vegetables.
Work it in: For family movie night, try toasting almonds for a heart-healthy snack instead of munching on buttery popcorn.

7. Sweet potatoes

Their vibrant blood-orange pigment offers a hint about why these vegetables are so beneficial to the heart. They contain loads of fiber, vitamin A, lycopene and beta carotene, which accounts for their rich, warm color. These nutrients eachhave antioxidant properties, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals floating in the bloodstream. Free radicals form in the body in different ways, such as exposure to cancer-causing substances.
Work it in: To enhance the sweet flavor of this orange potato, forgo the butter and brown sugar and opt instead for a sprinkling of cinnamon and lime juice.

8. Oatmeal

Looking to lower your high cholesterol and boost your fiber intake? Kick back with a warm bowl of oatmeal. Not only does eating oatmeal offer heart-healthy benefits, but it keeps you feeling full throughout the morning, so you won’t be tempted to snack on that office doughnut. For maximum benefit, choose steel-cut or slow-cooked oats, which are less processed and contain less fat.
Work it in: Oats are a great substitute for flour. When making pancakes or muffins, swap out about one-third of the flour for oatmeal.

9. Berries

Who doesn’t love berries? Cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all jam-packed with anthocyanins, which are blood-vessel-helping antioxidants. The added fiber in berries also makes them beneficial to your digestive system.
Work it in: Add berries to cereals, salads, pancakes and yogurt, or simply enjoy a handful of berries as a healthy treat anytime.

Meet the Expert

Jamie Kandora

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