By Nicole Spain, Registered Dietitian
Celebrate American Heart Month by treating your heart to some of these superb food choices! Most of us know that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will be at the top of this list, but did you know that some foods could give your heart an even bigger boost? Try to incorporate at least one of these foods every day during the month of February!
- OATMEAL: Oatmeal is full of soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol. It is versatile, too. It can be served topped with berries or peaches in the morning for breakfast, or it can be served savory with spinach and parmesan cheese mixed in for lunch.If you are not a fan of eating oatmeal, try adding whole rolled oats to meatloaf or burgers in place of breadcrumbs.
- ALMONDS: Nuts in general have also been shown to lower cholesterol. However, almonds may be the most heart-healthy nut since they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These are easy to eat – enjoy them as a quick and filling snack, add a handful to a salad, or top your yogurt with almond slivers.
- AVOCADO: These are high in calories so a little goes a long way.Avocados are full of heart-healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and they boost your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.Enjoy avocado added to a smoothie, on salads, or on a slice of toast topped with a tomato!
- TOMATOES: Speaking of tomatoes, these red, sweet, and juicy vegetables are high in fiber and potassium, which contributes to heart health by reducing the risk of heart attacks. They also can regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- LEGUMES: This encompasses a large group of foods including beans, lentils, and peas. These all provide a great source of fiber, which in turn, lowers blood cholesterol levels.Join our Grow Fit® initiative and make Mondays meatless at home by making legume-based dishes for dinner in place of meat.
- SALMON: Salmon may be the healthiest superfood found in the sea. It is full of omega-3 fatty acids which can help regulate an irregular heart beat (arrhythmias), as well as reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels.
- TUNA: Although not as high in omega-3 fatty acids as salmon, tuna does provide a moderate level and it is a lot easier on the budget. Canned tuna comes packed in many different options and they are not all created equally. White tuna contains more omega-3s, but it is also higher in mercury, which may be a concern for pregnant woman. Tuna also comes packed in water or oil.Tuna packed in water has significantly higher amounts of omega 3 fats.
- SWEET POTATOES: They are full of vitamin A and C and are also a low-fat source of vitamin E.They provide a good source of potassium, folate and fiber!Don’t forget that you can eat the skins, so there is less prep work if you skip peeling them. Bake them and top with a touch of cinnamon and butter. Or, slice and roast them until crisp for healthy fries. Sweet potatoes and yams are very similar, but they are not the same, nutritionally speaking. Yams are healthy, but have less nutrients and fiber.
- BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries are the superfood of the berry world. They are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals making them a heart-healthy choice. Blueberries are easy to eat as a snack by themselves, on top of cereal or pancakes, or blended into a smoothie.
- DARK CHOCOLATE: Bet you didn’t think this would be on the list! Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and can help lower blood pressure. To get the benefit of the chocolate, you will need to eat at least 70% cocoa. (And remember, just one serving!)