Now that we are through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, our thoughts should return to healthy eating. If you have not yet done so, consider reintroducing heart healthy foods into your regular diet. The heart and general health benefits can be very significant. Consider, in particular, the foods listed below:
- Raisins. Antioxidants in raisins help fight bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease. Gum disease effects 50% of Americans, and those with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease.
- Whole grains. People who eat whole grain dietary products (such as whole wheat flour/bread, whole oats, brown rice) tend to have a lower risk for heart disease. Whole grains contain fiber, antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols. The fiber in whole grains can also help lower LDL-cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”).
- Beans. The soluble fiber in beans helps lower cholesterol. The flavonoids in beans is likely to help prevent blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
- Salmon/Tuna. Oily fish like salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acid. Two servings of fish per week has been shown to lower the risk of developing coronary artery disease by 30%. Omega-3 fatty acid reduces triglycerides in the blood, helps prevent clot formation and helps manage blood pressure.
- Nuts. Eating nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, pecans or pistachios) 4 or 5 times per week have been shown to decrease heart disease risk. Nuts are rich in vitamins, minerals and heart healthy monounsaturated fats.
- Tomatoes. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, fiber and lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and its effectiveness is actually increased by cooking tomatoes.
- Apples. An apple, at an average of 80 calories each, is the “perfect snack” and is easily blended into many mealtime dishes. Apples are very high in fiber and antioxidants. They decrease heart disease risk by decreasing inflammation inside blood vessels and lowering cholesterol levels.
- Berries. Berries with high antioxidant activity, such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, can help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and raise levels of HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”). About a cup of berries 3 to 4 times per week would contribute substantially to heart health.
- Bananas. Bananas (and sweet potatoes, spinach and nonfat yogurt) are rich in potassium. Potassium helps the kidneys excrete excess sodium, thereby contributing to healthy blood pressure. For patients taking diuretics (water pills), bananas help restore lost potassium.
- Popcorn. Popcorn is very high in polyphenol antioxidants and is also considered a whole grain. Unbuttered, unsalted popcorn (with herb spices or parmesan cheese added for flavor) represents a very heart healthy snack.
Other heart healthy dietary products include green tea, yogurt, dark chocolate (in moderation), alcohol (in moderation) and pomegranates. Consumption of one or two of the dietary products mentioned above as often as 4 or 5 days per week can decrease risk of cardiovascular disease very significantly while also contributing to overall good health. Consider purchasing these healthy foods the next time you are at the supermarket.
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