We all know that what we eat affects the health of our heart, but many of us may not know exactly what foods help accomplish that. Since February is American Heart Month, I am focusing on some fun tips to help you eat your way to a happy heart, but remember: This is not your doctor talking! If you have, or suspect you have a heart problem, please talk to your doctor directly before changing your diet or life-style.
Expert advice for good heart health includes regular exercise, keeping stress levels at bay, no smoking, of course, and just as importantly, a variety of delicious, heart-healthy foods that you can add to your daily menu. Here’s what the experts say:
Mounting evidence suggests that adding oily fish to your diet can benefit heart health. The essential omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA found in fish, are keys to a healthy heart (and brain and nervous system!) Best fish to add: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and lake trout. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings per week. If fish is not your thing, check with your doctor about adding fish oil or essential fatty acid supplements. Here is a delicious recipe for Salmon with Caramelized Cherries
Eat Fruits and Veggies!
Absolutely packed with good-for-your-heart stuff like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Adding just one extra serving a day can give your heart a real boost! Be sure to fill half your plate with colorful veggies (think kale, broccoli, yams, red and yellow bell peppers, berries, mango, papaya, etc.). Go for what’s fresh and in season. I’m a big fan of organic when possible! And don’t forget there are dried fruits, bottled juices, frozen berries and veggies, applesauce, all-fruit jams, and vegetable juices, too. Remember: Don’t over-cook your veggies. Whether you sauté or steam, keep them crisp-tender to help retain nutrients. Get your kale quota in this Butternut Squash and Kale Salad
, and bliss out on berries with this recipe for Raw Berry Crisp
Nix the sweets; snack on a handful of nuts!
All varieties of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and cashews, are an excellent choice. When eaten regularly, nuts help support healthy cholesterol levels. Although high in fat, it’s primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and they don’t promote weight gain when eaten in moderation — about a small handful. Snacking on nuts provides many important nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium. This is good news for your heart and your waist-line, so no guilt allowed! For more info, check out our Guide to Nuts
You’ve heard it before! Both green and black teas are packed with antioxidants called flavonoids. These decrease oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Three cups of tea each day can benefit your heart, but remember: Both green and black teas contain caffeine. Look for natural, decaffeinated tea if needed, or opt for some hibiscus tea. It’s red in color and imparts some of the same properties as red wine. We’ve got a great Guide to Tea
Grate some ginger!
It helps keep cholesterol levels healthy and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It’s great in sweet or savory dishes, and also steeped as tea. And don’t forget that fresh ginger makes a wonderful addition to freshly pressed juices. For good health and good taste, try this recipe for Lemongrass and Ginger Tea-Steamed Vegetables
Have a glass of red wine!
Yes, just a glass for you ladies…maybe two for you gentlemen. Moderate consumption of red wine enhances heart health by helping to support healthy cholesterol levels and healthy circulation. If you don’t imbibe, no problem! Try some Concord grape juice. It has similar beneficial effects.
! Need I say more? Dark chocolate benefits many different aspects of heart health, including good circulation and antioxidant protection. As an added bonus, micronutrients, including magnesium and copper, are concentrated in dark chocolate. Sorry folks, but milk chocolate just doesn’t cut it!
Do you have a favorite heart-healthy recipe? Let me know!