If you think heart-healthy eating means bland, boring food, your taste buds are in for a shock. With a few smart and simple substitutions, you won’t even miss the unhealthy fats, salt, and extra calories making your heart old before its time. In fact, you can still eat some of the old standards if you modify them -- and you’ll have new, delicious options to choose from as well.
6 Must-Eat Foods
To help prevent high cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflammation, and arterial aging, eat these delicious foods for your heart’s sake:
1. Strawberries -- and just about any other colorful fruit or veggie you can find. Why? Because fruits and vegetables like red grapes, cranberries, oranges, plums, and tomatoes are bursting with flavonoids -- antioxidants that help quell inflammation. And that’s a good thing, because inflammation is one of the many processes involved in heart disease. Eat them fresh -- sliced or whole. What could be easier? Aim for 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day. Know what the highest antioxidant fruit on the planet is? Find out here.
2. Rye bread -- and any other grain product made from whole grains. Whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, quinoa, flaxseeds, and whole soybeans are full of heart-protective fiber and magnesium that can help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in a healthy range. Try for six or more daily servings of whole grains. Think you know your whole grains? Take this quiz.
3. Avocado -- and other healthy vegetable-based fats. Use mashed avocado, olive oil, and nut butters in place of unhealthful fats. Mashed avocado makes a good sandwich spread if you mix it with a little salsa. And olive oil is a great butter substitute when you’re sauteing veggies. Use nut butters and peanut butter in place of butter and cream cheese. Substitutions like these are delicious ways to bring down “bad” LDL cholesterol and boost the “good” HDL kind. Just remember to limit portion size as you would with any other oils or fats.
4. Salmon -- and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A strong body of research shows that eating fish (as long as it’s not fried) helps lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia, high triglycerides, arterial plaque buildup, and inflammation in your arteries. Opt for three portions per week of oily fish rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Nuts -- yep, not only do they make healthy nut butters, but they make a great snack, too. And eating nuts regularly can cut your risk of heart disease by 20% to 60%. Almonds, pistachios, and especially walnuts are loaded with heart-friendly fats and are a great source of vegetable protein. Just stick to one handful per day to keep your calorie count down.
6. Dark chocolate -- see, you don’t have to avoid sweets entirely. In fact, a little dark chocolate every day is good for your heart. Find out why dark chocolate is such a heart-smart treat.