The old saying goes, you are what you eat. So if that’s the case, why do so many of us continue to neglect a proper diet? Especially when it comes to how our diet affects our health. Eating heart healthy foods, for example, is just one way that you can protect your health and eat properly at the same time. But what are heart healthy foods? Is one better than the other? What if you just don’t like the flavor of a particular heart healthy food? There are several heart healthy foods out there and there’s sure to be one or two that you and your whole family will enjoy.
Ten Types of Heart Healthy Foods
#1 – Seeds and Grains
Seeds and grains work well to protect your heart. The one you’re most familiar with is oatmeal. Some people have a disdain for cooked oatmeal, though. They don’t like the texture of it.
You can create a mix similar to trail mix, which includes one cup of healthy raw oats that you snack on during the day. This single serving is enough to provide massive benefits to your heart.
It lowers your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Eating it raw delivers more healthy benefits, because many of the instant oatmeal packages most people use are flooded with extra ingredients like sugar.
If you’re not an oatmeal fan, try grits! They’re healthy for the heart, too. You can find grains in bread form as well – just make sure it’s as unprocessed as possible.
As for seeds, there are several seeds that provide heart health benefits. Flax seed is well known – and chia seeds aren’t just for growing hair on a pottery piece anymore!
They deliver rich omega-3 acids and are packed with fiber. You can eat them raw or mix them in with other recipes. Sunflower seeds are another good option because they contribute to weight loss, which in turn protects the heart.
Sesame seeds are great to sprinkle on salads or to use as a crust – and they help lower your blood pressure. And pumpkin seeds also contain omega-3 acids and prevent cholesterol build up in your body.
#2 – High Omega-3 Carrying Fish
Any fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids is a good way to protect your heart. And fish in general is low-calorie when compared to things like pork chops or a t-bone steak.
But you can’t fry it up and keep the health benefits intact – you need to cook it health, and make sure you choose the right kind. Salmon is one good option. This fish has a great deal omega-3 acids and if you add it to your menu a couple of times a week, you’ll love what it can do for your triglycerides levels.
If you can, get Wild King Salmon – it’s the highest in terms of omega-3 acids. But even canned salmon packs a heart-healthy punch. Tuna is another easy-to-find heart-healthy fish, as are anchovies. If you’re out to eat, look for herring or trout to order, because those two also contain ample supplies of omega-3 acids.
#3 – Blue and Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Experts always recommend that we eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables during the day. So let’s go over some heart healthy foods from each group. First up are blue and purple foods, like blueberries.
These foods are great for serving as an antioxidant, but when it comes to your heart, add just three simple servings of berries (blue or otherwise) each week and you have a 32% smaller risk of having a heart attack than others do. These berries lower your blood pressure.
As for fruits, you can also enlist the help of plums, grapes, blackberries, prunes and figs to help your heart stay healthy. Vegetables are abundant, too – but two of the most popular ones are purple cabbage and eggplants.
Pick a deep purple cabbage and sauté it – don’t boil it. You can eat it raw, too. The deeper the color, the healthier it is for you. Eggplant is the same way – and it helps reduce your bad cholesterol.
#4 – Red Fruits and Vegetables
Tomatoes are one red food that many of us naturally get plenty of – and some people lack. Pizza sauce has tomatoes as a base, but consumption overall is at an all-time high.
Tomatoes are packed with potassium. In case you aren’t familiar with why potassium is important, it’s because it’s what helps your heart beat – it helps it pump blood through your body.
Other foods that help your heart are watermelon, pink grapefruit, raspberries and strawberries, apples, cherries, beets and cranberries. Some of these you might prefer in liquid form, while others fit nicely into your diet in solid form.
Now if you’re already taking heart medication, talk to your doctor about the grapefruit – because it can complicate your medical regimen. But if heart disease isn’t an issue yet, it can help prevent future problems.
You might want to sneak a bit of red wine into your diet, too. But just a bit. Small amounts can help you ingest heart-healthy resveratrol, but you can also just eat red grapes to get the same benefits.
One of the best fruits for your heart that doubles as an antioxidant is pomegranate. It helps your arteries continue escorting blood flow through the body without issue.
#5 – Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Next up on our rainbow tour of heart healthy foods is the orange food group. Oranges themselves are great for reducing the risk of clot-induced stroke. And if your vitamin C is at a good level, then you have a lower chance of developing heart disease.
It’s best to eat them raw – not in a commercial juice form. That’s because tons of sugar gets added to those products, and you want the natural juice without the added calories.
One of the best orange vegetables you can add to your diet is a sweet potato. Potatoes get a bad rap, but potatoes are packed with potassium and sweet potatoes help keep your blood pressure in check and offer you plenty of fiber for your meal.
#6 – Yellow Fruits and Vegetables
Yellow heart healthy foods include fruits and vegetables such as:
* Bell peppers
* Corn on the cob
As we mentioned before, potassium is crucial for good heart functionality – and bananas are full of potassium. Squash has that too – but it also has magnesium, which helps control your blood pressure.
When it comes to corn, you’re better off not eating it raw to get the maximum heart benefits for it. Cooked corn increases its ability to provide you with antioxidants.
Pineapple and lemon are packed with vitamin C and this vitamin helps improve blood flow to your heart. Some experts say that is has the ability to virtually open the arties, allowing blood to flow easily.
#7 – Green Fruits and Vegetables
“Eat your greens” your mother probably used to nag. But she was right! Green fruits and vegetables are about as heart healthy as they come. As for vegetables, start with a mix of broccoli and spinach.
You can eat either of these cooked or raw and they both taste great! The carotenoids in them go through and help rid your body of toxins, allowing your heart to function better. Add kale to the mix and you now have an omega-3 rich vegetable powerhouse.
Some people look at an avocado and see the word “fat” – but it’s heart-healthy fat (yes, there is such a thing). It works the same way olive oil works – to aid in the reduction of bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
You can also add the following to your diet for better heart health:
* Brussels sprouts
* Green cabbage
* Bok choy
* Green beans
* Green peppers
* Collard greens, mustard greens, or turnip greens
* Green grapes
#8 – Dark Chocolate
Nobody is saying that a diet rich in chocolate is going to be healthy for your heart. Moderation is key to health with anything. But if and when you indulge, do it with dark chocolate.
There was a study in 2012 that showed that a daily intake of dark chocolate helped stave off heart attacks and even strokes. That’s because the polyphenols help prevent clotting and lower your blood pressure.
#9 – Soy Foods
More families are giving up meat to replace it with soy foods once or twice a week. Soy comes in many vegetarian products like tofu, but you can get it other ways, too.
Soy is similar to avocado in that it has healthy fats that reduce blood pressure. You can buy soy in the form of Edamame, soy milk, soy milk, soy cheese, and soy nuts.
#10 – Nuts and Beans
Nuts such as walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios and even plain old peanuts help your heart by providing lots of fiber. One of the best nuts is the walnut – because it is rich with omega-3 fatty acids.
When shopping for nuts, look for plain, unsalted varieties. You don’t want the salt added in because then it has the opposite effect – possibly increasing your blood pressure.
Beans help you get the protein your body needs, without the majority of fat that meats tack on. Try to add this to your diet in at least four meals each week. This should give you a 22% lower risk of heart disease, according to one study.
Obviously, there are also dietary restrictions and food allergies to consider, but there should be one or two items on this list that you can incorporate into your diet if you don’t eat them already.
Heart Healthy Fast Food Options
Many fast food chains are aware of the bad reputation that fast food has for clogging the arteries, so they’ve made menu selections that are healthier. For example, most fast food chains offer salads on the menu. However, watch out for the saturated fat in dressings. Salads that have fried meat on top are less heart healthy than those that have grilled meat on them.
When it comes to sandwiches, you should look for grilled chicken sandwiches over fried. And it’s always a good idea to ask for as many vegetables as possible to be added to your sandwich. Choose dressings such as mustard and ketchup over mayonnaise that’s high in saturated fat.
As you’re choosing side items for your food, look for side salads and fruit cups instead of French fries. These will pack your lunch with vitamins and fiber instead of saturated fat. You may also want to choose juice or milk to drink with your meal instead of soda. This will help to keep your blood sugar normalized and provide you with extra vitamins and minerals.
If you’re really craving a burger and fries, it’s okay to have them once in awhile. However, you do want to watch portions. Many fast food restaurants offer portions that are large enough for two or three meals.
Opting for a kid’s meal or a small burger and small fries will help to keep your intake of saturated fat to a minimum. When you’re feeding your children fast food, remember that there are usually healthy options such as apple slices and mandarin oranges available for the kid’s meal. You can also opt for juice or milk instead of soda.
In fast food Mexican places, a simple burrito or taco can actually be pretty healthy. Make sure to pile on as many vegetables as possible to increase your fiber. While a taco salad may sound healthy, it’s usually loaded with saturated fat and calories.
Eating fast food for many meals can take its toll on your heart if you don’t make good choices. Eating meals at home is your best option, but when that’s not possible you can try the healthier options that are available for you.