What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “heart-healthy diet?” Probably the words “bland,” “boring,” or “blah”. But there’s actually nothing bland or boring about these best foods for heart health—and your choices are abundant and delicious.
10 Foods to Add to Your Heart Healthy Diet Plan
According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), approximately 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. While people commonly associate heart disease with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking, poor diet is also an important contributing factor.
To keep your heart healthy and your palette satisfied, take a look at 10 of the best foods for heart health to add to your heart-healthy foods list.
Salmon and other “oily” fish like tuna, sardines, and mackerel are heart-healthy powerhouses. They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up). The American Heart Association recommends eating these types of fish twice a week. Avoid battering, frying, or covering fish in a creamy, buttery sauces—this basically cancels out the health benefits. Try cooking salmon at high heat with some herbs and drizzle with lemon juice.
The unsaturated fats in nuts help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Some nut varieties, like walnuts, are also high in omega-3s. Look for almonds, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, and macadamias without high amounts of added salt. (An added benefit: this protein-packed snack will keep you filling full during the workday.)
Berries rich in color are packed full of anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that help decrease blood pressure. One study even suggests that women who eat three or more servings of berries a week lower their risk of a heart attack by 32%. Berries also contain vitamin C and fiber—and they’re delicious!
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) contains flavonoids (they promote healthy blood circulation and supple arteries) and polyphenols (antioxidants that reduce inflammation and plaque build-up). Dark chocolate is also an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral essential to heart function. For a tastebud thrill, try the Cacao Blueberry Smoothie and combine two heart-healthy foods for one delicious treat.
With legumes (beans, lentils, and peas) the possibilities really are endless. They’re delicious in soups and salads, with rice, in place of meat in tacos and quesadillas, and when tossed with some spinach and garlic. Beans are full of heart-healthy protein, folate, and cholesterol-lowering fiber. Did we mention you can also use garbanzo (chickpea) flour in your favorite baked goods?
- Lean Meats
Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and chicken nuggets are high in sodium. Certain types of red meat contain saturated fats. The most heart-healthy meat you can eat is fresh, skinless chicken, turkey, and other unprocessed lean meats.
- Leafy Greens
Broccoli, spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens are loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals. These veggies contain combinations of vitamins A, C, E, K, and several types of B. Dark leafy greens are also packed with antioxidants that have been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease.
- Non-Tropical Oils
Many people make the assumption that cooking with coconut and palm oil is good for your heart. Sadly, these tropical oil varieties are high in heart-harming saturated fat. Instead of vying for tropical oils, use vegetable-based oils such as canola, olive, corn, and sunflower oils. (Remember: with any cooking oil, a little goes a long way.)
- Yogurt (Low-Fat)
Eating healthy, low-fat yogurt can help your heart by keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check. Look for yogurt that contains “live and active” cultures, which also aid in digestion and a healthy metabolism. Low-fat Greek yogurt topped with berries can be the perfect substitute for an otherwise unhealthy sweet treat.
Sometimes mistaken for a vegetable, the avocado is actually a fruit! And it happens to be on the list of fruits good for the heart. A quarter of an avocado contains a mere 6 grams of total fat—monounsaturated fat, which is the good kind! Add avocado to a slice of whole grain bread, topped on a salad, or all by itself. Your heart will thank you.
Jumpstart Your Way to a Healthier Heart
At Wellworks For You, our comprehensive Wellness Portal enables employees to access healthy recipes and grocery lists, in addition to many other wellness tools. For more ideas on incorporating the best foods for heart health into your diet, or for information on making your workplace more “heart friendly,” set up a consultation or call us any time at 800-425-4657.