Foods for A Healthy Heart
FOOD & NUTRITION
A good place to start living a healthier lifestyle is to examine and modify what you eat. Avoiding saturated fats and foods high in cholesterol is foremost. Filling up on fruits, vegetables and fiber is essential, as well as cutting back on fatty meats and eating more fish.
Many heart-favorable foods contain phytonutrients, the organic components of plants. Phytosterols are plant sterols or stanols, natural cholesterol-like components in plant membranes that resemble cholesterol.
Taken through food or supplements as a part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, phytosterols may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol.‡ Phytosterols can interfere with cholesterol absorption in the small intestines, which helps reduce cholesterol from being absorbed, so it gets excreted from the body. ‡
‡ Foods or dietary supplements containing at least 400 mg per serving of free phytosterols, taken twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 800 mg, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol.
Some other common, heart-friendly nutrients:
Carotenoids are antioxidants that occur in colorful fruits and vegetables like acorn squash, blueberries, cantaloupe, oranges, red peppers, and tomatoes. Alpha-Carotene, Beta-Carotene, Lutein, and Lycopene are all carotenoids, just to name a few.
You don’t have to memorize all the scientific names to eat smarter. An easy way to shop for heart-friendly foods is to choose “whole” foods that come from nature (think: plants, ground).
Tasty ways to treat your heart well…
Fill up on whole-grain fibers such as oatmeal, bran, barley, brown rice or flaxseed. Try to get 25 to 30 grams of both soluble & insoluble fiber daily. Soluble fiber acts like your bloodstream’s scouring pad to help remove the bad (LDL) cholesterol before it has a chance to stick to arteries.
Consume fruits & veggies (beta-carotene & other carotenoids): Get from 5 to 13 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Acorn squash, asparagus, broccoli, blueberries, cantaloupe, oranges, papaya, red bell peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are all good choices.
Eat your beans: Legumes such as red, black and kidney beans are all good sources of fatty acids, soluble fiber, and antioxidants.
Go nuts and add small amounts of heart-friendly mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as almonds and walnuts, vegetable oils, olives, and avocados.
Choose fatty fish like salmon, pollock, tuna, and herring (great sources of omega 3 fatty acids) instead of fatty, red meats. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend eating fish at least twice a week.
Treat yourself: Dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content (a flavonoid/reservatrol nutrient) is a healthy way to support your heart.
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