I was surprised to read recently that heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. Even though we have learned so much about the prevention of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, it seems we can still do more to stop this deadly condition.
It’s been proven that eating healthier and getting more exercise can make a huge difference in your risk for heart disease.
What you eat matters. Here are 13 top foods to help protect your heart and blood vessels:
Salmon is super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay. Salmon also contains powerful antioxidants. Grill it up with a tasty rub or marinade. Save a chunk of salmon and chop it up for pasta or salad at another meal. To mix things up, you can also eat oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines.
A steaming bowl of oats is a great way to start the day and also gives you omega-3 fatty acids, folate, niacin, calcium and potassium. It’s rich in fiber and can help lower bad cholesterol and keep your arteries clear. Add raisins or fresh berries to boost this heart healthy dish.
Walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, along with mono- and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber. Mix a few of these nuts with yogurt or berries, add them to salads, or make your own trail mix.
A bit of avocado added to a sandwich or spinach salad can give you a serving of heart-healthy fats. Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and help lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. Avocados also help in the absorption of beta-carotene and lycopene, which are both good for heart health.
Olive oil is also a source of monounsaturated fats and helps lower bad cholesterol. Use it in place of butter or other oils for cooking.
Flaxseed is full of fiber and omega-3 as well as omega-6 fatty acids. Sprinkle flaxseed on oatmeal or whole-grain cereal for breakfast. You can also use flaxseed instead of eggs when making muffins, quick breads, pancakes or cookies.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and blackberries are all full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. They also contain vitamins and nutrients as well as fiber. Mix berries in your salads, muffins or trail mix.
A glass of red wine can improve your good cholesterol. Red wine contains both catechins and reservatrol, also known as flavonoids.
You can fill up on fiber with lentils, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans. These legumes are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and soluble fiber.
Spinach can help your heart with lutein, folate, potassium and fiber. Spinach can make nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches. Other leafy greens include kale, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce and cabbage.
Soy is low in saturated fat and is a great source of lean protein for a heart-healthy diet. Try natural sources of soy, such as edamame, tempeh or tofu. Soy milk is good with a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal, or even in smoothies.
Fruits and veggies
It’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. You should even try to make them half your plate. You can buy fresh fruits and veggies that are in season, frozen or canned (just be sure it’s 100% fruit juice and not syrup). Some heart healthy veggies include carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus and squash. In addition to berries, add these fruits to your diet: oranges, apples, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwi, peaches and papaya.
I’m never sure if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, but it deserves its own category anyway. Tomatoes are a super food packed with beta- and alpha-carotenes, lycopene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber. You can add tomatoes to salads, pasta dishes, pizza and more. You even eat them in ketchup.
Adding these heart healthy foods to your diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. See if you can eat a few of the foods listed above today!