It’s February, the month of love -- and National Heart Awareness. We all know food is medicine, but what are the best types for your ticker? Here, we show you seven easy ways to give your heart some love and to keep it ultra healthy for life -- all through the power of food.
1. See Red
Some of the best foods for your heart are red, so reach for tomatoes, red peppers, strawberries, pomegranates, apples, or grapes. All of these heart helpers make a great stand-alone snack or vibrant salad topping.
2. Tea Up
Brimming with inflammation-fighting antioxidants, green tea is one of the best heart helpers around. Drink it straight up or add a touch of honey and fresh lemon for a flavorful kick.
3. Veg Out
Pretty much all vegetables apply, but if you’re looking for a true all-star selection, pick broccoli. Studies have shown that diets with a higher intake of broccoli have been correlated to less coronary-related health events. This versatile veggie can go into everything from omelets to pastas to stuffed baked potatoes.
Other top picks to add to your plate include: spinach, arugula, broccoli rabe, kale, tomatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions, cucumber, cauliflower, artichokes, zucchini, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, celery, fennel, cabbage, leeks, beets, and sweet potatoes.
4. Grab Some Garlic
Garlic has been extensively studied for its potential to lower cholesterol. Enjoy garlic in your everyday cooking by mincing a few cloves, and adding it to sauces, spreads, and vegetable stir-fry.
5. Go Fish
Healthy fats—like those found in nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish—are part of a heart-healthy diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, raise "good" HDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin resistance.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin A, B vitamins, and selenium, salmon is a solid choice for heart health. But make sure to read the fine print. Avoid farmed varieties, which may be labeled as “Atlantic salmon.” These will often be contaminated with mercury, pesticides, and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are harmful to the heart.
6. Turn to Turmeric
Turmeric contains compounds with medicinal properties called curcuminoids. The most well-known and well-reserached cucuminoid is called curcumin, which has a beneficial impact on several factors known to play a role in heart disease. It improves the function of the endothelium (the lining of your blood vessels) and is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
It’s important to note that most turmeric studies involve turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages typically exceeding 1 gram per day. It would be a challenge to get that amount on a daily basis simply from adding turmeric spice to your meals. Therefore, if you want to experience the broad-spectrum effects of curcumin, you need to take a turmeric supplement.
7. Fill Up on Fiber
Found in vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts, fiber has been shown to improve blood sugar, have cardioprotective effects, decrease inflammation, and slow aging. The daily requirement for an adult is 30 grams of fiber. To meet this challenge, aim for 3 cups of vegetables, 2 pieces of fruit, 2 servings of nuts or seeds, and 1⁄2 to 1 cup of beans.
Start the month off right. It’s no big secret that whole foods are medicine. In most cases, we can prevent heart disease simply by selecting the right foods -- ones that nourish from the inside out.
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