You probably know salmon and walnuts are heart-healthy, but what about black beans and oranges? Read on for more delicious ways to fight heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes…
Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs make many other foods heart-healthy when they replace salt, sugar, and trans fats. These flavor powerhouses, along with nuts, berries even coffee form a global approach to heart-wise eating.
Fact: Rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme contain antioxidants.
Black Beans: Mild, tender black beans are packed with heart-healthy nutrients including folate, antioxidants, magnesium, and fiber — which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Tip: Canned black beans are quick additions to soups and salads.
Red Wine and Resveratrol: If you drink alcohol, a little red wine may be a heart-healthy choice. Resveratrol and catechins, two antioxidants in red wine, may protect artery walls. Alcohol can also boost HDL, the good cholesterol.
Tip: Don’t exceed one drink a day for women; one to two drinks for men and talk to your doctor first. Alcohol may cause problems for people taking aspirin and other medications. Too much alcohol actually hurts the heart.
Salmon: Super Food: A top food for heart health, it’s rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s may lower risk of rhythm disorders and reduce blood pressure. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and reduces inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.
Tip: Bake in foil with herbs and veggies. Toss extra cooked salmon in fish tacos and salads.
Tuna for Omega-3s: Tuna is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s; it generally costs less than salmon. Albacore (white tuna) contains more omega-3s than other tuna varieties. Reel in these other sources of omega-3s, too: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies.
Tip: Grill tuna steak with dill and lemon; choose tuna packed in water, not oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This oil, made from the first press of olives, is especially rich in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. When olive oil replaces saturated fat (like butter), it can help lower cholesterol levels. Polyphenols may protect blood vessels.
Tip: Use for salads, on cooked veggies, with bread. Look for cold-pressed and use within six months.
Walnuts: A small handful of walnuts (1.5 ounces) a day may lower your cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart. Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fiber. The benefits especially come when walnuts replace bad fats, like those in chips and cookies — and you don’t increase your calorie count.
Tip: A handful has nearly 300 calories. Walnut oil has omega–3s, too; use in salad dressings.
Almonds: Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, even desserts, and just a handful adds a good measure of heart health to your meals. They’re chock full of plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Tip: Toast to enhance almonds’ creamy, mild flavour.
Tofu: With soy protein you gain all the heart-healthy minerals, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats of soy and you avoid a load of artery-clogging saturated fat.
Tip: Chop firm tofu, marinate, then grill or stir-fry, going easy on the oil. Add tofu to soups for protein with no added fat.
Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a hearty, healthy substitute for white potatoes for people concerned about diabetes. With a low glycemic index, these spuds won’t cause a quick spike in blood sugar. Ample fiber, vitamin A, and lycopene add to their heart-healthy profile.
Tip: Enhance their natural sweetness with cinnamon and lime juice.
Oranges: This sweet, juicy fruit contains the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. A small study shows that they may improve blood vessel function and modestly lower blood pressure through the antioxidant hesperidin.
Tip: A medium orange averages 62 calories, with 3 grams of fiber.
Carrots: The latest research on carrots shows these sweet, crunchy veggies may help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. They’re also a top cholesterol-fighting food, thanks to ample amounts of soluble fiber — the kind found in oats.
Tip: Sneak shredded carrots into sauce and batter.
Barley: Try this nutty, whole grain in place of rice with dinner or simmer barley into soups and stews. The fiber in barley can help lower cholesterol levels and may lower blood glucose levels, too.
Tip: Hulled or “whole grain” barley is the most nutritious.
Oatmeal: Oats in all forms can help your heart by lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol. A warm bowl of oatmeal fills you up for hours, fights snack attacks, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable over time — making it useful for people with diabetes, too.
Tip: Swap oats for one-third of the flour in pancakes, muffins, and baked goods.
Flaxseed: This shiny, honey-colored seed has three elements that are good for your heart: fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. The body converts ALA to the more powerful omega-3s, EPA and DHA.
Tip: Grind flaxseed for the best nutrition. Add it to cereal, baked goods, yogurt, even mustard on a sandwich.
Low-Fat Yogurt: While low-fat dairy is most often touted for bone health, these foods can help control high blood pressure, too. Milk is high in calcium and potassium and yogurt has twice as much of these important minerals. To really boost the calcium and minimise the fat, choose low-fat or non-fat varieties.
Tip: Use milk instead of water in instant oatmeal, hot chocolate, and dried soups.
Coffee: Coffee and tea may help protect your heart by warding off type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people who drink 3-4 cups a day may cut their risk by 25 per cent and even decaffeinated coffee works. Caution is due, however, for those who already have diabetes or hypertension; caffeine can complicate these conditions.
Tip: Choose black coffee or a non-fat latte to limit fat and calories.
Cayenne Chili Pepper: Shaking hot chili powder on food may help prevent a spike in insulin levels after meals. A small study in Australia showed that simply adding chili to a hamburger meal produced lower insulin levels in overweight volunteers.
Tip: Chili powder is a blend of five spices, while dried chili pepper comes from a single hot pepper. Both are good substitutes for salt in recipes.
Cherries: Cherries are packed with anthocyanins, an antioxidant believed to help protect blood vessels. Cherries in any form provide these heart-healthy nutrients: the larger heart-shaped sweet cherries, the sour cherries used for baking, as well as dried cherries and cherry juice.
Tip: Sprinkle dried cherries into cereal, muffin batter, green salads.
Blueberries: The list of healthy nutrients in blueberries is extensive: anthocyanins give them their deep blue color and support heart health. Blueberries also contain ellagic acid, beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Tip: Add fresh or dried blueberries to cereal, pancakes, or yogurt. Puree a batch for a dessert sauce.