10 Heart Smart Foods

10 Heart Smart Foods

They say the way to a person’s heart is through food, and we certainly won’t argue that showing your love with a home-cooked meal is special. Food also happens to be a great way to insure a healthy heart too. By choosing heart smart foods, you can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, including decreasing the chances of having a heart attack and stroke. Here are 10 heart-healthy superfoods to add to your shopping list and recipes to use them.

  1. Avocados – A recent study looked in the effects of diet on lowering cholesterol. The group that consumed one avocado per day saw a significant reduction in LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, the type of cholesterol that has been shown to raise the risk of heart disease. Avocados also contain about 28% of your RDI of potassium, one of the nutrients essential for heart function. Add these Tempeh Fajitas with Avocado to your menu to easily put some of this heart-healthy food on your table.
  2. Berries – These tiny fruits, including raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, pack a powerful punch. Berries contain polyphenols, antioxidants that capture free radicals that have been shown to cause damage. Berries also contain fiber and vitamin C, both helpful in lowering the risk of stroke. Try this Raspberry, Avocado, and Mango Salad for a fresh, light lunch.
  3. Beans – Whichever variety of beans you choose, you can expect them to contain resistant starch, a compound that resists digestion and has been shown in studies to aid in decreasing the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Multiple studies have shown that beans also help lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation. Use a variety of beans in this Crockpot Calico Beans for a sweet and tangy meal loaded with heart-healthy goodness.
  4. Dark Chocolate – The flavanols (antioxidants) in cacao (the plant used to make chocolate) have been shown to both lower blood pressure and decrease blood clots. Just make sure you reach for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao and choose unprocessed, natural cocoa powder for baking. Also keep an eye on the sugar content! These rich Dark Fudgy Brownies are both decadent and good for your heart…so, win-win!
  5. Dairy – Reach for a tall glass of milk or a cup of yogurt and you’ll be adding a healthy dose of potassium to your diet. Potassium helps regulate your blood pressure and regulate your cardiovascular system. Get a double dose of heart-healthy goodness in this Avocado Smoothie made with vanilla yogurt.
  6. Garlic – Recent studies have confirmed the blood pressure lowering affect of garlic can be attributed to the allicin it contains. Garlic also helps prevent platelets from building up in the bloodstream, which potentially lowers the risk of stroke from blood clots. Add some serious greens and garlic to your menu with this Garlic Tofu and Greens recipe.
  7. Oatmeal – Not all fiber is created equal and oatmeal has the distinction of containing beta-glucan, a specific type of fiber that helps lower LDL cholesterol. Consuming one-and-a-half cups of oatmeal per day will give you all the beta-glucan you need, but you can also find it in barley. Get a little bit of your daily recommended amount of oatmeal in this Mixed Berry and Oat Smoothie with Granola.
  8. Olive Oil – Another antioxidant powerhouse, olive oil also contains monounsaturarated fatty acids. Studies indicate that people who consume olive oil have a 35% lower risk of getting heart disease and even a 48% lower risk of dying from it if they do get heart disease. Adding this heart-friendly oil to your diet is as simple as drizzling it over your veggies in this Grilled Veggie Antipasto recipe.
  9. Salmon – Fatty fish such as salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be incredibly good for your heart. Studies have shown consuming fish such as salmon decreases diastolic (or resting) blood pressure. Eating fish has also been linked to lower rates of diabetes and obesity. Pair a creamy yogurt sauce with salmon in this Salmon Chermoula recipe.
  10. Walnuts – Eating walnuts is another way to combat high blood pressure because the nuts help lower LDL cholesterol. Walnuts also contain micronutrients important for heart healthy, including magnesium and copper. This Farro, Roasted Squash, and Date Salad with Walnuts makes a lovely side, but can also be eaten on its own.