Since EmpowHer is focusing on heart health this February, I thought I would share some of my tips on the best foods for your heart and how to prepare them.
It is no surprise that eating nutritious foods and living a health conscious lifestyle keeps your heart well, too. Even though it seems like a no brainer, this does not mean that everyone will listen and follow through. And this is namely for one reason: heart healthy foods are often terribly bland.
A common misconception about cooking a heart healthy meal is that “heart healthy” means “tasteless.” Heart healthy food does not have to be that fat-free-salt-free-taste-free stuff that it sounds like. Spice up your life by getting creative in the kitchen and cooking up some delicious and heart healthy foods.
Top Heart Healthy Foods
To kick things off, here is a list of the top foods for a happy and healthy heart.
1. Oatmeal: Because of its omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium, and soluble fiber, oatmeal keeps the arteries clear and eliminates LDL, better known as the “bad” cholesterol.
2. Black or Kidney Beans: These are rich in B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber.
3. Red Wine: Contains catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids) which help the cardiovascular system.
4. Blueberries: These, as well as other berries, are chocked full of beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), anthocyanin (a flavonoid), ellagic acid (a polyphenol), vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. These elements reduce the risk of heart disease and can help to prevent cancer.
5. Broccoli: Rich in beta-carotene (a carotenoid), Vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium, and high in fiber.
6. Red bell peppers: Filled with beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex vitamins, folate, potassium, and fiber to help eliminate toxins in the body.
7. Oranges: Packed with beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids), vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber, these citrusy fruits keep the heart strong and the immune system healthy.
8. Tomatoes: Full of beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids), vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber.
9. Dark chocolate: The reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids) keep the heart arteries flexible and the body stress hormone levels low.
10. Avocado: Packed with monounsaturated fat, avocados can help lower LDL levels while raising the amount of HDL cholesterol in the body.
How To Utilize These Foods:
Many people would agree the prior list of super foods don’t all sound particularly appealing on their own especially in comparison to typical comfort foods full of cream, sugar, and fat—except for maybe the wine and chocolate.
Unfortunately, healthy food often seems boring because we get stuck in a rut of the same old recipes. Eating a lean piece of chicken with broccoli on the side is only appealing for a short time. Instead of compartmentalizing food into separate plated categories, weave those healthy ingredients together into tasty comfort foods while using spices that amp up the flavor.
Craving chicken pot pie? Swap cream for low fat milk, only put the crust on top, and pile the veggies high and deep while seasoning them with unique herbs such as thyme or rosemary. Have a glass of wine on the side for the extra heart benefits.
Be creative with food substitutions. Make chicken fajitas with black beans, bell peppers, and guacamole on warmed (not fried) corn tortillas.
Being heart healthy does not mean suffering during meals. A little cooking inspiration is the perfect solution to the beating stereotypically boring diet of heart conscious individuals. And before making any dramatic diet changes, be sure to communicate with your healthcare provider for suggestions and resources.
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