10 Heart-Healthy Foods (Slideshow)
Most of us have heard the little rhyme, "Beans, beans are good for your heart…" and it’s absolutely true. Black and kidney beans are loaded with B vitamins, which help enzymes in your body release energy from carbohydrates and fat, break down amino acids, and transport oxygen in your blood. Having beans on your plate is a great nutritional strategy for preventing heart disease.
Broccoli, and its cruciferous cousins cauliflower, cabbage, and kale, contain isothiocyanates, compounds that have been shown to reduce levels of LDL in the blood, preventing artery plaque buildup and lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The perfect holiday fruit, cranberries are more than just a festive treat. According to Kim Daly, they contain high levels of the powerful antioxidant vitamin C as well as anthocyanin, a flavanoid that has been shown to promote circulation and prevent cardiovascular disease.
The special antioxidants, called flavonoids, found in dark chocolate made with at least 70 percent cocoa protect blood vessels by lowering blood pressure and reducing LDL. Studies have shown eating about 1 ounce three times per week can improve blood flow and help prevent the formation of blood clots. How sweet!
A handful of almonds or walnuts a day delivers healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, and a bunch of nutrients, including vitamin E and magnesium, all of which, according to Kim Daly, promote a strong cardiovascular system.
Soluble fiber — the kind found in whole grains — has been proven to lower LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) and reduce the risk of heart disease, making oatmeal an excellent breakfast choice. More recent studies show oatmeal can also protect against high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and weight gain. Pass the spoons!
Red wine contains catechins and resveratrol, flavanoids that act as antioxidants in your blood stream to help protect vessels, lower blood pressure, and improve levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol). Toast your health by drinking one glass a day — any more than that puts stress on your liver, canceling out the benefits.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in wild salmon, namely DHA and EPA, are readily absorbed by the body and used to lower triglycerides, raise HDL, help repair muscle damage, and strengthen the heart. (Skip farmed salmon as it tends to be contaminated with chemicals, like mercury, which can impair brain function.)
Beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and E, and fiber all wrapped up in a tasty package make sweet potatoes delicious and good for your heart — the nutrients work together to lower LDL, reduce inflammation, and prevent artery blockage.
Tomatoes are a natural source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But there’s a catch: They need to be cooked for your body to reap the heart-health benefits, so opt for stewed tomatoes or sauces.