Top 5 Heart Healthy Foods
February is American Heart Month. With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, it is important to check in with yourself and make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your heart healthy. If you are incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, you are already on the right track. While some factors, such as genetics, are out of your control, a healthy diet is one of the best ways to help prevent heart disease. In addition to limiting your intake of foods high in cholesterol, trans fat and saturated fats, incorporating heart healthy foods into your diet is an excellent way to help protect your heart. Here are our top five heart healthy foods:
- Oatmeal. A diet rich in fiber, especially soluble fiber, is associated with decreased risk for cardiovascular disease. Oatmeal is a food that is high in soluble fiber, which can reduce your body’s LDL (aka ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels. Try to avoid pre-packaged oatmeals with lots of added sugars. You can add berries or apples on the top of your oatmeal for an extra boost of antioxidants, fiber and flavor. Try this delicious bake-ahead, dietitian approved oatmeal recipe.
- Salmon. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent blood clots, stabilize dangerous heart rhythms and improve blood pressure. Studies have found that people who eat fish are less likely to have heart attacks than those who avoid it. Other fish high in omega-3’s include sardines, mackerel and cod. To meet your recommended amount of omega-3’s, try eating at least two servings of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids per week.
- Beans. Beans really are good for your heart—and they’re super easy to incorporate into any meal. Canned beans are equally as beneficial as dried beans. Just remember to rinse them well with water before preparing to get some of the sodium off. Add them to a salad, to tacos, make a hearty bean soup, the options are endless. Beans are beneficial because they are packed with fiber and omega-3’s, plus they are low in fat and cholesterol free (stay away from refried beans).
- Avocados. Avocados are a great source of fiber and unsaturated fat. Try replacing a saturated fat source, like sour cream or mayonnaise on a sandwich or salad to make your meal more heart healthy. Avocados are also packed with antioxidants that can help protect your heart.
- Nuts. Snacking on nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans or hazelnuts can help improve your heart health, increasing your intake of unsaturated fats and lowering cholesterol levels. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids and fiber which help lower cholesterol levels. Nuts also contain vitamin E which can protect against plaque build up in your arteries.
When it comes to heart health, consuming adequate fiber is key. This means eating at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day, making sure the grains you eat are whole grains (think brown rice, whole grain bread and pasta), and limiting your sodium intake. Also, be sure to replace saturated fats like butter with unsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil whenever possible. The American Heart Association recommends following the DASH diet or the Meditteranean Diet to improve heart health. Learn more about these diets here.
Visit Yummy Body Nutrition to learn more about how working with a nutritionist can change your life – get more energy, better skin, maintain an ideal weight, improve function of major organs like the heart, and more.
Visit the American Heart Association’s website to learn more about American Heart Month and heart health.