Cardiovascular disease is incredibly common in our country. In fact, 1 out of every 3 deaths is caused by heart disease or stroke. But did you also know that 80% of cardiac events could be prevented if we made the right choices about diet, exercise, and smoking?
February is heart health month, and I’m excited to share 5 superfoods that can help keep your heart in tip-top shape.
That’s right – when you buy beets, don’t throw out the greens! They’re edible and quite tasty. Any type of leafy green is a superstar for health, but I specifically wanted to highlight beet greens because of their high potassium content. Getting enough potassium each day can help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels. A 1/2 cup of cooked beet greens contains 654 mg of potassium (getting you well on your way to meeting the recommendation of 4,700 mg per day) plus tons of other vitamins and minerals – all for just 19 calories!
An avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats – a type of healthy fat that helps to decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A portion controlled serving of avocado – like 1/4 of the avocado – contains just 80 calories and will supply your body with the heart-healthy fats as well as 3.5 grams of fiber.
This fish contain those elusive omega-3 fatty acids, a particularly helpful form of fat that may help lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and reduce the risk of arrhythmias. A 3 ounce serving of salmon will contain almost 2 grams of these omega-3 fatty acids (higher than many other types of fish) and is only 175 calories.
Here’s an easy way to cook salmon: lay a fillet (which often contains several servings depending on size) in tin foil and season with pepper and rosemary. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and then lay lemon slices on top. Tent the foil and place on a baking sheet in the oven. Bake in the oven at 350F for 25-35 minutes or until the fish is easily flaked with a fork. Yum!
Surprised to see this on the list? That’s right, dark chocolate can be healthy for your heart in portion controlled amounts! Cocoa beans are rich in a group of plant nutrients called flavanols which have antioxidant properties and other health benefits. A recent meta analysis of 24 studies, looking at a total of 1106 participants, found that flavanol-rich cholate may lead to…
- Decreased systolic blood pressure
- Decreased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
- Increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol
Other research support these findings, and suggest other potential benefits like reduced stress hormones and improved vascular function.
Look for chocolate that contains a high percentage of cocoa – at least 70-80% - for these health benefits. A few of my favorite brands that have varieties which meet this include Equal Exchange and Green and Black. And remember to eat a portion controlled serving that fits in your meal plan. Eating excessive amounts means greater calorie consumption which could translate to weight gain – which would negate many of the benefits listed here.
Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all fantastic for your heart – and the rest of your body! These all contain anthocyanins, a group of phytochemicals (or plant nutrients) that display antioxidant activity and may reduce the risk of heart disease through effects on blood vessels and cholesterol. Plus, they’re easy to use – throw some in your cereal or yogurt, blend them in your smoothies, or eat them plain as a snack.
Share with us: Which of these 5 superfoods for heart health is your favorite?