Even though the number of American deaths attributed to heart disease has dropped, it is still the number one cause of death for adults in this country. Good dietary choices play a key role in preserving healthy cardiac function, but instead of focusing on what you should not eat, here’s a list of heart-healthy foods that are delicious, nutritious and good for your heart and your waistline.
There is a direct correlation between the circumference of your waistline and your risk of heart disease. Belly fat is the most dangerous to your health and the hardest to remove.
Fishing for a Healthy Heart
The catch of the day keeps the cardiologist away. Fish should be a staple in your diet; and become a replacement for processed fatty meats like hamburger, sausage and bacon. Not only are fish a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals, they have the most abundant and most easily absorbed omega-3 fatty acids. The body does not produce this essential nutrient naturally, but it does a body good. Eating fish two to three times a week will give you plenty of it. Salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are especially high in omega-3s, so be sure to put them on the menu.
Enjoying nuts regularly is a heart-healthy idea. Almonds and walnuts are heart-healthy foods to enjoy in moderation since they are high in calories. Adding a handful to your cereal, salad or dipping your banana in some almond butter will give you a healthy dose of omega-3s, and the unsaturated fat and fiber will keep you satisfied longer. The healthiest nuts to eat are almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts and macadamias.
Flaxseed belongs in your diet along with a variety of nuts. They are loaded with alpha-linolenic acid, which is a fancy name for omega-3. These small but mighty seeds can be ground to replace some of the fat in baked items and sprinkled on top of salads or cereal to add a little crunch with significant benefits.
Be Fruitful and Thrive
Fruits high in vitamin C and fiber are also loaded with phytonutrients to help reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation due to obesity, environmental pollution and poor diet are a leading contributor to heart muscle damage. Berries are particularly heart-healthy foods because they are not only sweet, delicious and plentiful, but contain copious amount of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Orange-hued fruits like oranges, tangerines, peaches and cantaloupe offer plentiful amounts of potassium and magnesium.
Mom was right when she said, “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” They come in so many varieties and you can eat as much as you want. Be sure to avoid heavy cream or butter-based sauces or oily condiments. Add these all-stars to your grocery list:
- Asparagus – beta-carotene, folate and fiber
- Broccoli- vitamins C and E, calcium and fiber
- Spinach – iron, vitamins A, B2, C and K along with folate calcium, magnesium and potassium, just to name a few.
So, grill up some asparagus to pair with a salmon fillet, steam some broccoli or add a handful of spinach to your salads and you will be helping your heart and your waistline.
The body cannot run on protein and fats alone. Carbohydrates are the key for high, sustaining levels of energy. Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal (toss a handful of nuts, seed and berries on top) is a great way to give your body the fuel it needs. The fiber in oatmeal will keep you feeling satisfied longer and keep cholesterol levels in check. Steel cut is best and avoid instant varieties loaded with sugar.
Yes, a heart-healthy diet includes dessert! It’s been called the fourth food group for good reason. Dark chocolate made from 70% cocoa is one of the healthiest treats you can eat. A one-ounce square daily offers soluble fiber, antioxidants, iron, magnesium and potassium, zinc and selenium. These are all nutrients that contribute to a healthy heart. Like nuts, chocolate has a lot of calories, so a little goes a long way.
Here’s To Your Heart
Hopefully reading this has encouraged you to add these foods to your grocery list. There are many other heart-healthy foods you can work into the mix, and consider supplements as an additional way to pump up your daily vitamin and mineral consumption.